More than five months after being detained, two Canadians citizens have been formally arrested by Chinese authorities on charges of stealing and gathering state secrets.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were both picked up in early December on suspicion of “harming state security.”Kovrigis a former Canadian diplomat who now works for the NGO think tank International Crisis Group (ICG).Spavor, meanwhile, is the founder and director of the Paektu Cultural Exchange, a non-profit that is based in the border city of Dandong and organizes trips to North Korea.
Their detentions came in the week after CanadaarrestedHuawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou at the behest of authorities in the US where she is wanted for violating sanctions against Iran. Meng’s arrest infuriated China which warned that Canada would face “serious consequences” if she was not quickly released.
As Meng’s case progressed in Canada, Chinese authorities remained quiet about the case against Kovrig and Spavor. However, in March, the Communist Party’s Legal Affairs Commission accused Kovrig of having stolen sensitive Chinese intelligence, naming Spavor as his main contact.
At a regular press briefing in Beijing on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang confirmed that the two Canadians had been arrested “recently” with Kovrig facing charges of “gathering state secrets” and Spavor of “stealing secrets and illegally providing them to overseas forces.”
It remains unclear what sort of secrets Kovrig and Spavor allegedly conspired to steal. Lu added that China hopes Canada will stop making “irresponsible remarks” regarding the case. Canada’s Global Affairs department has said that it “strongly condemns their arbitrary arrest as we condemned their arbitrary detention on December 10.”
In Canada, Meng Wanzhou is still awaiting a hearing on her possible extradition to the US. This week, she penned a letter to Huawei employees, thanking them for their support. “This close and warm connection is as beautiful as a spring breeze,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, the announcement of the formal arrests of Kovrig and Spavor comes just a day after Donald Trump signed an executive order barring US firms from using telecoms technology or services from sources that are deemed to be “foreign adversaries.” Huawei is the presumed target of this order.