International Asia China bristles at Canada over duo detained on spy charges

China bristles at Canada over duo detained on spy charges

Canadian former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have been held in China for nearly two years and have been charged with spying.

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Beijing on Monday rubbished a Canadian charge that two of its citizens were being arbitrarily detained in China, instead accusing Ottawa of “double standards” over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Canadian former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have been held in China for nearly two years and have been charged with spying.

Over the weekend the men were granted their first meeting with Canadian embassy officials since January, leading Canada to reiterate its objection to their “arbitrary detention.”

Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was arrested in Canada in December 2018 on a US warrant during a stopover in Vancouver — just days later Kovrig and Spavor were picked up in China.

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“What Canada has done to Meng Wanzhou is arbitrary detention,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.

Accusing Canada of “double standards” for holding her, Zhao said any attempts “to form international cliques to put pressure on China together are totally futile and counterproductive.”

Meng, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecoms giant, is charged with bank fraud related to violations of US sanctions against Iran, and has been fighting extradition ever since.

Zhao added that the accusation of arbitrary detention “cannot be pinned on China” and urged Canada to “fully respect China’s judicial sovereignty, and stop releasing irresponsible remarks.”

Canadian ambassador Dominic Barton obtained “virtual consular access” to Spavor on Friday and Kovrig on Saturday, ending a months-long absence of direct communication.

Kovrig and Spavor have been held in China since December 10, 2018. They were formally charged with espionage in June.

Zhao also criticised the Canadian justice department’s decision last week to deny Meng access to confidential documents, in a fresh blow to her case.

“If the Canadian side truly respects the rule of law, it should agree to disclose the case’s key evidence as soon as possible,” he said.

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