China formally arrests Canadian ex-diplomat, businessman

16th May, 2019 10:06:32 printer

BEIJING: China said Thursday it has formally arrested two Canadians who have been detained for months on national security grounds, in a case that has inflamed tensions between Ottawa and Beijing, reports AFP.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig is “suspected of collecting state secrets and intelligence” while businessman Michael Spavor is suspected of “stealing and illegally offering state secrets” abroad, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular briefing.

Lu said the two were arrested “recently”, but did not provide a date, and added that he had no information about where they were being held.

“Canada strongly condemns their arbitrary arrest as we condemned their arbitrary detention on Dec. 10,” the Canadian foreign ministry said in a statement to The Globe and Mail newspaper.

Though no link has been officially made, the detention of Spavor and Kovrig is thought to be in retaliation for Canada’s December 1 detention on a US extradition request of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei who is accused of violating Iran sanctions.

The men were first accused of activities that “endanger China’s security”—a phrase often used by Beijing when alleging espionage.