U.S. response to detained Canadians in China not strong enough: Sen. Lindsey Graham – National


U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Friday the response by the United States to China detaining two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese Huawei executive has not been strong enough.

Chinese ambassador threatens ‘repercussions’ on Canada if Huawei 5G banned

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Graham also told Munich Security Conference delegates the international reaction to China’s arrest of ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor hasn’t been enough to persuade China that its apparent use of hostage diplomacy won’t be tolerated.

“The president has been tough on China but this is one area where I think we need to make a more definitive statement, because the two people arrested in China had nothing to do with the rule of law. It was just grabbing two Canadians,” Graham said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who appeared on the panel with Graham, mouthed the words “thank you” to Graham after he said it. Roland Paris, one of the delegates and a former foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asked Graham about it.

WATCH: Pompeo says U.S. might scale back operations with countries that are doing business with Huawei

U.S. ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft said last Saturday her country is “deeply concerned” about China’s “unlawful” detention of the two Canadians in what was her first public comments on the cases since China detained them on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. authorities.

Meng is the chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant Huawei and the daughter of its founder. The U.S. wants her extradited to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.

China also re-sentenced a convicted Canadian drug smuggler, Robert Schellenberg, to death after the Meng arrest as part of an apparent campaign of intimidation and retribution against Canada.

Analysis: China pulling out all the stops to force Canada to back down

Some analysts have said the U.S. response to China’s arrests of the two Canadians has been muted. U.S. President Donald Trump himself has not commented on the Canadians. But U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has, saying China ought to release them. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders and the State Department have issued brief statements of support.

Beijing threatened grave consequences for America’s neighbour and longtime ally after Meng was arrested at Vancouver’s airport.

Canada has embarked on a campaign with allies to win the release of Kovrig and Spavor, and many countries have issued statements in support.

WATCH: Trudeau says China trying to interfere with Canada’s judiciary by asking for release of Huawei CFO

“These are human beings and they only thing they did was be Canadian in China,” Freeland said. Freeland said she would be grateful if more countries spoke out.

“We will all be stronger and safer if we all can do that for each other,” she said. “We can’t descend to a might-makes-right world and that’s especially essentially for middle powers.”

The two Canadians were detained on vague allegations of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China. They remain locked up without access to lawyers.

Meng is out on bail in Canada and awaiting extradition proceedings.


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Detained Canadian not entitled to diplomatic immunity, despite Trudeau’s complaint: China – National


A former Canadian diplomat detained in China last month does not enjoy diplomatic immunity, a Chinese spokeswoman said Monday, rejecting a complaint from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the man’s rights were being denied.

Trudeau said last week that Chinese officials were not respecting the diplomatic immunity of Michael Kovrig.

Who is Michael Kovrig, the Canadian ex-diplomat arrested in China

He was arrested along with Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor on vague national security allegations after a top Chinese executive with telecommunications network equipment giant Huawei was detained in Canada on Dec. 1 at the request of Washington.

However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Monday that Kovrig is no longer a diplomat and entered China on an ordinary passport and business visa.

“According to the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations and international law, he is not entitled to diplomatic immunity,” Hua said at a daily briefing.

WATCH: China questions Canada’s treatment of ‘illegally detained’ Meng Wanzhou

Kovrig, a Northeast Asia analyst for the International Crisis Group think-tank , took a leave of absence from the Canadian government.

Washington wants Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the company’s founder, extradited to face charges that she misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. She is out on bail in Canada and awaiting a bail extradition proceeding next month.

China’s ambassador to Canada accused the country last week of “white supremacy” in calling for the release of the two Canadians, while describing the detentions as an “act of self-defence.”

However, Hua said the allegation that China arbitrarily detained Canadian citizens is “totally groundless.”

China is holding Michael Kovrig in a place where he can’t turn off the light or see a lawyer: reports

On Friday, Poland arrested a Huawei director and one of its own former cybersecurity experts and charged them with spying for China. That comes amid a U.S. campaign to exert pressure on its allies not to use Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of telecommunications network equipment, over data security concerns.

Poland’s move has raised concerns over the safety of its nationals in China, although Hua appeared to brush off such worries, emphasizing China’s desire for the “sound and steady” development of relations with Poland.

“As long as the foreign citizens in China abide by Chinese laws and regulations, they are welcomed and their safety and freedom are guaranteed,” Hua said.

WATCH: Detained Canadians “without a doubt” violated the law, China says


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Trudeau enlists Trump to seek release of Canadians detained by China


OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office says U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to “continue” to seek the release of two Canadians believed to be arbitrarily detained in China.

According to his office, Trudeau spoke to Trump Monday about a handful of bilateral issues including steel and aluminum tariffs, the closure of GM plants in both countries, and Canada’s arrest of a Huawei executive in response to a U.S. extradition request that enraged China.

The Dec. 1 arrest in Vancouver of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, wanted on fraud-related charges tied to Iran sanctions, was followed days later by China’s arrest of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on unspecified national security allegations.

A more-detailed-than-usual PMO readout of the Trudeau-Trump phone call suggests Trudeau made a case to Trump of the necessity of refraining from public comments that cast the Huawei case in a political framework.

It said the two leaders discussed “an extradition request made of Canada by the United States.”

It went on to say Trudeau thanked Trump “for the strong statements of support by the United States in response to the arbitrary detention of two Canadians in China.”

To date, Trump has not personally made any statement calling for the release of the Canadians.

Only Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lent his voice to Canada’s concerns last month.

A senior government official speaking on background said Trudeau initiated the call to Trump Monday afternoon, and was pleased to be able to “count on the U.S. for their help.

“It’s helpful to have a commitment from the president to be on the same page” when it comes to seeking the men’s release,” the official said. While public statements of support for the detained Canadians by Canada’s allies are important, he said, “a lot of work happens behind the scenes.”

Governments in France, Australia, Britain and the European Union have backed Canada’s concern the men’s detention is in retaliation for the arrest of the Huawei executive.

In contrast, Trump told Reuters news agency he would intervene to block the extradition request of Meng if he thought it would help strike a better deal with China.

Now, Trudeau’s office says the release of the two detained Canadians is a shared goal: “The two leaders agreed to continue to seek their release.”

It is not clear if Trump did in fact agree to make the release of the Canadians a priority. Trump made no mention of it in two exchanges with reporters on Monday.

The Canada-U.S. call comes as talks to resolve the ongoing bitter trade dispute and tariff war between the U.S. and China got underway Monday in Beijing.

However, Trump told reporters Sunday he believed the Chinese “want to make a deal” with his administration because “their economy is not doing well.”

Trump said the U.S. tariffs he imposed on Chinese imports “have absolutely hurt China very badly” while the U.S. is taking in “a lot of money through tariffs.”

“My relationship with President Xi is as good as any relationship that a president here has had with a president or leader in China. And I think good things are going to happen.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole said in an interview the PMO release is a clear attempt to show that Canada was obliged under extradition law to act on the U.S. request, and to suggest the comments by Trump were damaging and unfortunate.

“I think a call with the president on all these things is always good,” said O’Toole. “But the fact that he hasn’t made that leader-to-leader call with the Chinese president (Xi Jinping) causes concern, because we’ve been asking for that since mid-December.”

“And he (Trudeau) is treating this as a consular case when it isn’t a consular situation at all. This is a state-to-state dispute. It’s clearly not going well and if he called President Trump on it, he should call President Xi as well.”

In addition to speaking about the detained Canadians and the arrest of Meng, the PMO said Trudeau and Trump discussed “the importance of trade and jobs, building upon the successful renegotiation of the new North American Free Trade Agreement. They reaffirmed their support for workers affected by the closure of General Motors plants in Canada and the United States, and discussed next steps in addressing steel and aluminum tariffs.”

But there was no clear indication that the U.S. tariffs that were imposed in June on Canadian steel and aluminum tariffs — which Trump has slapped on global imports including China’s — would be lifted anytime soon.

Meanwhile, a Canadian delegation of senators and MPs was in China Monday on a business and education trip. Conservative MP Michael Cooper told CBC the delegation made clear to their counterparts there can be no business as usual in Canada-China relations as long as the two Canadians remain detained.

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc


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13 Canadians detained in China since arrest of Huawei executive in Vancouver, officials reveal


VANCOUVER—Thirteen Canadians have been detained in China since tech executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1, according to Global Affairs Canada.

Three of those thirteen Canadians — ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig, entrepreneur Michael Spavor and teacher Sarah McIver — were previously known to the public.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou talks with a member of her private security detail in Vancouver in December. Meng was arrested on Dec. 1 in Vancouver, at the request of authorities in the United States.
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou talks with a member of her private security detail in Vancouver in December. Meng was arrested on Dec. 1 in Vancouver, at the request of authorities in the United States.  (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press File)

Eight of those people, including McIver, have been returned to Canada since their arrests, said Global Affairs spokesperson Guillaume Bérubé in a statement. Of the eight Canadians that have been returned, only McIver was named.

Meng, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei, was released on $10-million bail to her family’s Vancouver home on Dec. 11 to await proceedings for extradition to the United States.

But Kovrig, Spavor and three others not named in Bérubé’s statement still remain in custody at undisclosed locations in China. Kovrig is being kept in a continuously lit room and is being questioned several times daily by Chinese authorities, according to International Crisis Group (ICG), Kovrig’s former employer.

China’s Foreign Ministry said in December both Kovrig and Spavor are “suspected of engaging in activities endangering national security,” though neither have been formally charged, precluding them from being able to mount any kind of legal defence.

Read more:

China’s detention of Canadians part of bid to challenge Western democratic norms, experts say

The ‘forgotten’ Canadians detained in China

China levels national security accusations against two detained Canadians

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called their detentions “arbitrary” in a statement submitted Thursday to the Star.

China’s top prosecutor Zhang Jun said in a statement on Thursday that there is “no doubt” Kovrig and Spavor broke China’s laws, adding that the two Canadians are still under investigation.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said “it is not convenient to disclose more information now.”

Experts have voiced concerns about the likelihood of due process being granted to Kovrig and Spavor, arguing that Beijing courts are little more than an instrument of the state.

Canadians Michael Kovrig (left), and ex-diplomat, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, have been detained in China since early December in a move some experts characterize as “politically motivated,” extrajudiciary detentions, designed to pressure Canada into returning high profile Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou to China.
Canadians Michael Kovrig (left), and ex-diplomat, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, have been detained in China since early December in a move some experts characterize as “politically motivated,” extrajudiciary detentions, designed to pressure Canada into returning high profile Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou to China.  (The Associated Press)

Guy Saint-Jacques, former Canadian ambassador to China, believes the primary motivation behind the men’s detentions is political. Saint-Jacques served as ambassador between 2012 and 2016, when Kovrig also worked for the embassy.

“I think the expectation of the Chinese side is to continue to put pressure on us so at some point we’ll just say … ‘Ms. Meng will be allowed to go back to China,’” he said in a December interview.

“I’m pretty sure if this were to happen, the two Michaels would be deported shortly afterwards.”

Former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans said Tuesday he was “totally confident” Kovrig’s detention was motivated purely by politics. Neither Kovrig nor ICG pose any kind of threat to China’s national security, he said. Evans had served as chief executive of the ICG.

Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University College of Asia and the Pacific, called ICG “an impartial international organization that has impeccable credentials for being even-handed in its treatment of nations and their interests.”

“The International Crisis Group is not in any way an anti-China or pro-U.S. organization,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “It’s internationally … respected. In other words, you would think it’s in China’s interests to be reasonable in its treatment of that organization and its staff.”

Eight Canadians, including teacher Sarah McIver, have been returned to Canada since their arrests, said Global Affairs spokesperson Guillaume Bérubé in a statement.
Eight Canadians, including teacher Sarah McIver, have been returned to Canada since their arrests, said Global Affairs spokesperson Guillaume Bérubé in a statement.  (Facebook)

And Robert Malley, ICG’s president and a former member of the U.S. National Security Council under president Barack Obama, said Thursday that China’s actions advance no “purpose other than the purpose of further raising doubts about China’s reliability as a country that’s going to follow the rule of law.”

Former ambassador Saint-Jacques argued that if the two Canadians are formally charged, they will be as good as guilty.

“In the Chinese system, they can detain you and go through this interrogation phase, and it’s at the end of that that they decide whether they will formally arrest you and formally charge you,” he said. “And if they do that, 99.9 per cent of the time you’re found guilty.”

Beijing has continued to emphasize the legitimacy of its legal process.

“China’s competent authorities took compulsory measures in accordance with the law against the Canadian citizens … because they engaged in activities undermining China’s national security,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in a Dec. 24 press briefing, urging international authorities to respect China’s “judicial sovereignty.”

“The relevant departments in China have ensured (the detainees’) legitimate rights and interests in accordance with the law and offered necessary assistance to the Canadian side to fulfill their consular duties.”

Charles Burton, associate professor of political science at Brock University, suggested the messaging may be partly intended to assuage local anxieties around the independence of the Chinese judiciary.

“China’s domestic audience … have a lot of reservations about the nature of Chinese state power and the lack of justice in the courts, because the courts are under the direction … of the Chinese Communist Party,” Burton said.

The Chinese legal system, he added, provides “no entitlement to human rights or fair due process.”

The idea of a truly independent judiciary is one Chinese authorities do not wish to promote in China, he said, which is reflected in Beijing’s repeated characterizations of the Canadian legal process as illegal, illegitimate and unreasonable.

And last week, the Chinese government issued decisions of the Politburo Standing Committee calling for an enhanced role of the party in the judicial process, which Burton said underscores how the Chinese courts are an organ of state power.

“The Chinese Communist Party enforces its political decisions through the use of administrative law,” he said.

Canadian senators who plan to travel to China this weekend told reporters they will use the trip to advocate for the release of the two men.

With files from Alex Ballingall and The Canadian Press

Perrin Grauer is a Vancouver-based reporter covering community issues and Canada’s drug policies. Follow him on Twitter: @perringrauer


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Global anxiety reflected in Australian outcry over Canadians detained in China


Australia’s former foreign minister, Gareth Evans, countered with a statement on New Year’s Day calling on the Canberra government to step up its protest to Beijing.

“The Canadian arrests are deeply troubling, and it’s time for the Australian government to join those others in the international community saying so loudly and clearly.

“In the case of Michael Kovrig, whom I know personally, I am totally confident that it is only about retaliation against Canada for the Meng case and in reality has nothing to do with his or Crisis Group’s foreign policy analysis and advocacy activities in China,” Evans said.

Evans had served as chief executive of the International Crisis Group think tank. Kovrig acts as its senior adviser for North-East Asia.

Australia in many ways bears striking similarities to Canada, said Howard W. French, former China correspondent for the New York Times and author of Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power.

Despite being colossal in size, both countries have only moderate populations and power on the international stage. Both have a long history of migration and cultural exchange with China.

“And it turns out that they’re incredibly well-endowed with natural resources,” French said in an interview. “Precisely the kinds of resources China needs.”

China’s apparent willingness to detain Canadians for political gain despite such deep-seated cultural and economic ties represents a troubling paradigm for Australians.

With unequivocal remarks emerging from non-governmental corners — and even some official voices, such as the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary — the question remains: Why have the heads of more Canadian-allied nations not issued explicit condemnations of the detentions or called for the detainees’ release?

According to Danielle Cave, deputy head of the International Cyber Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, this is partly because little international consensus exists regarding the potential peril represented by China’s rise.

“It had been difficult in the past for China scholars to agree on much — but it’s telling that they have come together to advocate on this issue,” she told StarMetro.

And, as with other democratic nations, the “gap between Australian and Chinese societal values, strategic interests and commitment to a rules-based international order continues to widen. And this deep complexity hasn’t yet been adequately publicly discussed — by both the government and in the media,” Cave said.

But in recent years and months, Australia has begun to make moves that suggest a recalculation of its priorities around domestic and foreign policy.

While Australia has long welcomed trade with Beijing as well as both Chinese investors and immigrants, the island nation has become increasingly wary of the influence of its heavyweight economic associate in recent years.

In June 2018, Australia passed far-reaching national-security legislation designed to ban foreign interference in politics. The overhaul added 38 new crimes to Australian law, including theft of trade secrets on behalf of foreign states and engaging in covert activity at the behest of a foreign power aimed at influencing the Australian political process.

The legislation aligned closely with the vision of members of the Australian security apparatus but was decried by civil-rights activists who protested its overreach and pointed to the possibility of its exploitation by Australian officials who might wish to clamp down on domestic dissent.

After extensive redrafting, the new laws enjoyed bipartisan support from Australian parliament, suggesting heightened vigilance has become a permanent feature of Australia’s stance toward Beijing and other foreign powers.

Kevin Carrico, senior lecturer of Chinese Studies at Monash University and one of the signatories of the open letter to the Australian government, said the issue goes beyond the idea of medium-sized powers like Canada and Australia standing against China’s actions.

“The issues at hand are far more fundamental than that. Any country that cares about basic human rights and rule of law should be outraged by these detentions. This is the type of thing Pyongyang does, not a rising power portraying itself as the standard bearer of globalization,” Carrico told StarMetro.

Burton, of Brock University, said the degree to which a country’s economy is tied to trade with Beijing cannot help but have a profound effect on its readiness to castigate the ascendant superpower for guerrilla diplomacy or human-rights abuses.

In Canada, for instance, the current furor over whether Huawei’s involvement in building 5G infrastructure represents a surveillance opportunity for the Chinese security apparatus can only be seen through the lens of the billions of dollars it would cost companies like Bell or Telus to switch partners and make their installations compatible with another firm like Ericsson, Burton said.

“The question is always, in doing business with China, to what extent do we have to compromise our Canadian values, our commitment to the rule of law (and) democracy … to satisfy the Chinese government’s demands (and) to get the benefits of China’s economic rise,” he said.

Andrew Chubb, a fellow at the Columbia-Harvard China and the World Program and a signatory to the open letter to the Australian government, said Australia’s case is further complicated by the way China’s current trade conflict with the United States could benefit its own prospects with Beijing.

“Australia is essentially not all-in on Donald Trump’s trade war,” Chubb said in an interview. “And in fact, there’s a sort of a structural ballast that mitigates against that possibility, which is that the worse the trade war gets between the U.S. and China, the more incentive China has to want to maintain its trade relationship with Australia and other countries.”

At the heart of it all, however, are the lives of average people who are being used as political tools, and that reality is unlikely to change anytime soon, said Pamela Kilpadi, director of the Boston, Mass.-based global policy research firm International Policy Fellowships Network.

“There’s a trend, in some countries around the world, to target specifically individuals who are working journalists or working for … magazines or non-governmental organizations,” Kilpadi said in an interview.

Lower-level diplomats and civil servants make especially useful “pawns” with which to extract political ends, she said. Trumped-up charges are easily levelled against such individuals due to their wide-ranging contact with all sectors, and their detentions aren’t complicated by the fury that might attend the arrest of a higher-profile politician or military leader.

Drawing from her own past experience as a family representative for an individual imprisoned in Iran, Kilpadi said the breakdown of relations between two countries at the level of leadership — because of an overarching economic dispute, for instance — means the detention of foreign nationals can be seen as a way to open up a kind of “backhanded diplomacy.”

“So sometimes it almost seems like (people like Kovrig) are targeted because of their potential to open up back-channels of communication,” she said.

The most recent detentions, however, might be a “game-changer,” according to Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University College of Asia and the Pacific.

As recently as six months ago, he said, the Australian expert community of scholars, academics and think-tankers who study China and the rest of Asia was divided into two camps: those who prioritized security and took a hard-line on China and those who tended to advocate for diplomacy and engagement.

But that divide has broken down, he said. The open letter to the Australian government protesting the detentions — to which Medcalf himself was a signatory — was co-signed largely by members of the so-called engagement camp.

“I think the key point is that there are many people who can identify with (Kovrig) and can look at this situation and realize it could just as easily have been them in his shoes.”

There are thousands of international professionals and businesspeople who’ve made their careers engaging with China, just as Kovrig and Spavor have done.

This “worrying” development will be enough to give any of those people reason to think twice before pursuing further engagement with China, he said.

“In theory, any one of them could be subject to similar arbitrary punishment in some future situation if their own country found itself having differences with China,” he said.

“Sooner or later, I think, every democracy is going to find it has its own differences with China.”

Perrin Grauer is a Vancouver-based reporter covering community issues and Canada’s drug policies. Follow him on Twitter: @perringrauer

Joanna Chiu is assistant managing editor of StarMetro Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachiu


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Canadian woman detained in China has returned home


Sarah McIver, a Canadian teacher who was detained in China earlier this month, has returned to Canada, Global Affairs Canada says.

« Global Affairs can confirm that a Canadian citizen, who was detained in China this month, has been released and has now returned to Canada, » a spokesperson said in an email. 

For privacy reasons, the department said no further information could be disclosed. 

Earlier this month, the Alberta woman became the third Canadian detained in China in recent weeks over a work-permit issue related to her teaching job. She had been sentenced to administrative punishment for illegal employment, according to a spokesperson for the Chinese government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has previously said that McIver’s case did not appear to be related to the detention of two other Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

Tensions have been high between Canada and China since the Dec. 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

Canada made the arrest at the Vancouver International Airport at the request of the U.S. officials, who accuse her of violating trade sanctions on Iran. Meng has since been released on bail pending extradition proceedings.

Not long after the tech executive’s arrest, Chinese officials confirmed the two Canadian men had been detained separately in China on national security concerns. 

Kovrig is a former Canadian diplomat currently on leave from Global Affairs as he serves as an adviser to the International Crisis Group think-tank, while Spavor is a businessman who arranges tours of North Korea.

Canada and its allies have been pushing back against the detentions, with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland saying last week that the government is « deeply concerned » by the « arbitrary detention » of the two men.


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Canada’s ambassadors urging allies to push for release of Canadians detained in China: Freeland – National


Canada’s ambassadors around the world are launching a concerted campaign to pressure allies to push for the release of two Canadians detained in China, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Saturday.

In a teleconference call with reporters, Freeland said Canadian ambassadors would reach out to their counterparts to discuss the “arbitrary detention” of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, which she said set a “worrying precedent.”

“I will continue in the coming days, along with Canada‘s ambassadors around the world, to be speaking with foreign counterparts about this issue,” Freeland said. “Our ambassadors… will be speaking directly in an organized effort with their counterparts.”

READ MORE: Chinese official slams Huawei exec’s arrest in response to question about Canadian detentions

The United States, United Kingdom and European Union have expressed their support for Canada, but some countries are yet to comment publicly.

Kovrig and Spavor were detained in the wake of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou‘s arrest in Vancouver earlier this month. Meng was arrested at the behest of U.S. authorities, who want her extradited there to face charges of fraud.

Freeland reiterated that Meng, who has been granted bail in Vancouver, has been given “full access to due process” in her legal proceedings.

WATCH: How tension between Canada and China will impact Canadians

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was personally involved in the situation, Freeland said, although she declined to say if or when Trudeau would pick up the phone and call Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“We continue to be in discussion with China,” Freeland said. “This is clearly a difficult moment in our relationship with China. It’s important to keep on talking and raising the issues directly with them.”

WATCH: China questions Canada’s treatment of ‘illegally detained’ Meng Wanzhou

Freeland’s remarks came a day after the Canadian government issued a written statement saying it was “deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities” of Kovrig and Spavor, and formally demanded their release.

— With files from Reuters

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Third Canadian citizen detained in China, government says


OTTAWA—A third Canadian citizen has been detained in China, the Canadian government has confirmed.

Maegan Graveline, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, issued a statement saying only the government “is aware of a Canadian citizen detained in China.”

She said consular officials are providing assistance to the family, and cited the Privacy Act, refusing to release further information.

But for now, the department is contending there is no reason to believe the case is linked to other recent cases of Canadians detained in China.

The development comes exactly a week after two other Canadians, including a former diplomat, were detained in moves Canada sees as acts of retaliation for the RCMP’s arrest of a Chinese executive at the request of U.S. justice authorities.

After the Dec. 1 arrest of Meng was publicly reported, China — which had threatened Canada with “grave consequences” if she wasn’t released — moved to arrest and detain two Canadian men.

They are former diplomat Michael Kovrig, on leave from Global Affairs to work for a non-governmental organization, and businessman Michael Spavor, who organized trips into North Korea, including for former NBA superstar Dennis Rodman.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called China’s detention of those two “unacceptable,” while U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went further calling it “unlawful” and demanded their release.

Trudeau said: “China is reacting to the arrest of one of their citizens, but we are being absolutely clear on standing up for our citizens who’ve been detained, trying to figure out why, trying to work with China to demonstrate this is not acceptable,” he said.

The Canadian prime minister took a direct shot at China and the U.S. President Donald Trump, who suggested Meng might be released if he could get a better security or trade deal with China. He said Canada will follow the rule of law and due process.

On Monday, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, declined to provide further details about the condition of the Canadians or reasons for their detention. The spokesperson repeated the line, uttered last week, that they were detained “on suspicion of engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security.”

On Wednesday, according to a transcript posted by the Chinese government, Hua was asked about the third arrest, that had just recently been reported in Canada, but said she was “not aware of the situation.”

Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, has been allowed one consular visit to the other two men.

The developments have given pause to professionals who travel to China. Said Stephen Nagy, Fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI) and Senior Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the International Christian University, Tokyo: “Frankly, I go to China frequently for research, conferences and to bring students to train them in international relations and about China.

“I am seriously reconsidering as it could impact me and my students.

“This will impact the essential scholarly, business and academic exchanges … plus … dealing with authoritarian China. This will decrease our ability to trade, prevent conflict and build long-term stable relations.

“The third arrest further cements the view that China is employing unorthodox tactics to pressure countries to bend to their political will. It also solidifies the growing consensus that rule by law, not rule of law, is being practiced in China.

“Businesses and scholars should proceed with extreme caution while ordinary travelers and overseas students should make themselves literate on the trajectory of Canada-China relations.

“It’s my view that China will squeeze U.S. friends and allies, such as Canada, Australia and others, as the reality of the divide of the U.S.-China trade war pause becomes much more apparent in the weeks and months ahead.”

Even before the latest arrest, some travellers were anxious about going to China. Louis-Philippe Rochon, a Laurentian University economics professor who was in China last week on an official academic exchange visa, says that after Meng was arrested, he decided to cut his trip to Beijing short mid-week, and returned to Canada four days early.

He tweeted that he was “uncomfortable,” and later told the Star via email that he felt “uneasy,” because it was “quite clear the arrest of Meng Wanzhou angered the Chinese people.”

He said grad students assigned to show him around told him Canada’s arrest of the Huawei chief financial officer was the only thing people were talking about. He said, at one point, the students suggested leaving a restaurant where it was “very clear patrons were annoyed with me there. Granted, no one knew I was Canadian, but the presence of a white guy made them wonder if I were.”

Rochon said he was nervous because the Chinese government knew exactly “where I was, since you have to give your passports to the hotel, and they copy it along with your visa. So I felt, at that point, I should leave.”

“As an academic, I have often read stories of scientists, academics, scholars, aid workers being the target of arrest,” Rochon told the Star in an email.

At a hotel compound in Beijing full of other academics and foreign students, Rochon said he met five or six other Canadians “and the general feeling was that they were also uneasy,” adding the whole group felt they hadn’t heard strongly supportive statements from the federal government in the Canadian press.

“It is the unpredictability of the regime that scared me, certainly. Had I been anywhere in Europe, or, indeed, in many or most Latin American countries, it would have been fine; but in a country with a history of human rights abuses, the uncertainty of knowing that something could happen, just made me personally unhinged.”

As of Tuesday, the Canadian government had not escalated any travel warnings for Canadians travelling to or within China. But it is urging citizens exercise a high degree of caution in areas where there might be isolated acts of violence, protests or bombings. It’s a warning that has been unchanged since Nov. 23.

—with files from Joanna Chiu

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc


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Friend of Canadian ex-diplomat detained in China describes feeling of ‘helplessness’


CALGARY—When Shaun Driver first heard his friend Michael Spavor had been detained by Chinese authorities, his first reaction was shock — then, a sense of “helplessness.”

“You start to think about what he’s potentially going through, what if anything can be done from the other side of the world to help facilitate the matter,” Driver said.

Driver, a lawyer practising in Vancouver, met Calgary-born Spavor in 2011 on an academic exchange to North Korea. Spavor runs an organization called Paektu Cultural Exchange, which organizes business, cultural and tourism trips to North Korea, and has worked as a consultant in the region for years.

Since then, the two have met a few times and have kept in touch, Driver said. The last time they saw each other was earlier this year, he said, praising Spavor’s compassion and magnetic personality.

“I was always impressed. He fits the ideal of what I think a typical Canadian is,” Driver said. “It’s one that’s inclusive, one that believes if you meet people and you understand people and their differences, you can then start to appreciate how to move forward and find common ground.”

Spavor is the second Canadian detained in China this past week. He was seized on Monday by Chinese authorities in the border city, Dandong. Spavor and diplomat Michael Kovrig were detained amid fallout from efforts by the United States to extradite Meng Wanzhou, a Huawei Technologies executive arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1.

Canadian officials were able to meet with Kovrig earlier on Friday.

“Canadian consular officials continue to provide consular services to (Kovrig) and his family and will continue to seek further access to Mr. Kovrig. Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed,” said Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Guillaume Berube in an emailed statement.

“Canada continues to press for consular access to Michael Spavor.”

According to Global Affairs’ statement, Kovrig was detained on Monday before consular access was granted on Friday. The purpose of these meetings is to assess the well-being of Kovrig and Spavor, clarify the nature of their detention while providing guidance on the country’s legal process, and to act as a communication link between them and their loved ones.

Spavor’s biography on Paektu’s website says he’s been organizing specialized visits to North Korea since 2005. This has included academic trips, media groups and even professional athletes and celebrities.

Most notably, Spavor organized former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s trips to meet the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, in 2013 and 2014. Spavor’s bio also touts his high-level contacts with government ministries and organizations in the region.

Before this, Spavor studied international relations at the University of Calgary.

What also impressed Driver about Spavor was how he facilitated connections between people at a grassroots level, regardless of what political divisions existed between their home countries. The thought that Spavor could be detained because of his role surprised Driver.

“How does an individual who could not be associated with being a national security threat for anyone, who’s really just about connecting people, be considered a national security threat?” Driver said.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the arrests “unlawful,” also suggesting the U.S. would help work toward their release.

Andrew Jeffrey is a reporter/photographer for StarMetro Calgary. Follow him on Twitter: @andrew_jeffrey


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Friends of Canadians detained in China say they aren’t national security threats


Friends of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig tell Global News they can’t understand how the two men, arrested separately in China, could pose threats to Chinese national security.

University of Ottawa associate professor Costanza Musu calls Kovrig a close friend. She’s known him for more than a decade.

“The International Crisis Group is a highly regarded NGO that he works for and that he provides analysis for as a senior analyst. They don’t engage in any non-transparent activity at all,” Musu told Global News.

“In no capacity would he really have done anything of the sort that would endanger Chinese security.”

WATCH: China says 2 Canadians were placed in detention on suspicion of ‘endangering national security’

On Thursday, Chinese government officials confirmed the two Canadians are being detained over national security concerns. They added that the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver was a mistake and called for her immediate release.

Musu said Kovrig has always had a passion for global politics and developed a love for China while working for Global Affairs Canada. She says he spent months and months learning Mandarin to prepare for a diplomatic posting in that country.

Kovrig took a leave from Global Affairs at the end of 2016 because he wanted to keep living and working in the region, she said. Musu doesn’t see how a person with such an extensive understanding and appreciation of China — as well as extensive connections with Chinese officials — could be seen as endangering national security.

Kovrig is based in Hong Kong, but Musu believes he was on a trip to Beijing to see friends and contacts when the arrest occurred.

“We just don’t know exactly where he is or why he’s being detained so not knowing the reasons make it very difficult for everyone who knows him to figure out what’s best to do,” Musu said.

READ MORE: Who is Michael Kovrig, the Canadian ex-diplomat arrested in China

On the other side of the country, Vancouver lawyer Shaun Driver is also worried about his friend.

Spavor took Driver to North Korea in 2011.

“He connects people to the culture in North Korea and he gives you an opportunity and he opens up a window for people who are interested to understand it, to go and do it,” Driver told Global News.

“I don’t get how he’s a national security threat.”

READ MORE: Michael Spavor, who facilitated North Korea travel, ID’d as second Canadian to go missing in China

Calgary-born Spavor founded the Paektu Cultural Exchange, which focuses on making connections in North Korea. He facilitated former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s visits there in 2013 and 2014, and his Facebook page shows Spavor in photos with leader Kim Jong Un.

“I’ve considered him to be the greatest unknown Canadian,” said Driver.

“You have this guy who has all these connections in North Korea, he’s building bridges and trying to resolve things on a grassroots level, and I always respected that.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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