The diplomatic row between China and Canada seems to be intensifying as the Chinese authorities have announced to conduct investigations on a Canadian businessman Michael Spavor on suspicion of harming China’s security, on Thursday.
An official media portal for the Liaoning province government stated that the state security bureau in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong has been investigating Spavor, who is working with North Korea, since December 10. No further details were provided.
The information from China followed the detention of former Canadian diplomat, Michael Kovrig, working for the International Crisis Group (ICG). Chinese media reported that Kovrig is being investigated on the same charges.
When asked about the detention of Spavor, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang reiterated the media reports, saying that both Canadians were suspected of harming national security.
“The legal rights and interests of these two Canadians have been safeguarded,” Lu said. “These two cases are in the process of being investigated separately.”
The ministry spokesman also stated that the Canadian embassy has been notified of the detentions. He declined to give any further details about the investigation, adding that he had not heard of any other cases of Canadians being probed.
The investigations by China on both Spavor and Kovrig comes days after the December 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder, at the request of Washington. The Huawei CFO is accused by US of violating the US sanctions on Iran.
Chinese officials claim that Kovrig’s detention is not tied to Wanzhou’s arrest. However, Canadian diplomatic experts have raised doubts that the two cases are connected.
When asked if Wanzhou’s release would see the release of the two Canadians, Lu Kang repeated that Wanzhou’s was a mistaken action and Canada should immediately let her go.
He also said that the authorities in the Canadians’ cases have taken measures “according to the law,” and that they have nothing to fear so long as they obeyed the law.
Editor of Global Times, Hu Xijin said on the Weibo social media platform that the Chinese government would never acknowledge that the Canadians’ detentions were related to Meng’s case.
“But the use of a complete set of laws to prove the rationale for arrest is one and the same as what the US and Canada did to Meng Wanzhou,” he wrote.
In a statement, foreign ministry spokesman Guillaume Bérubé said that Canada has been unable to reach Michael Spavor since he notified the government about being questioned by Chinese authorities.
The phone calls, messages and emails to Michael Spavor went unanswered. At Present, Canadian officials are striving to ascertain his whereabouts. Bérubé said that the officials would continue to raise the issue with the Chinese government.
The chain of events, regarding the detention of two Canadian citizens by Chinese authorities in a row, is an apparent indication of China’s indirect retaliation to Canada’s move on Wanzhou’s arrest. While China is not ready to accept it, its actions are a different signal to Canada.