China accuses detained Canadians of stealing state secrets

State news agency reports former diplomat Michael Kovrig was spying with businessman Michael Spavor

China accuses detained Canadians of stealing state secrets

China accused two detained Canadians on Monday of acting together to steal state secrets, just days after Canada announced it will proceed with a U.S. extradition request for a senior Chinese tech executive.

China arrested the two Canadians on Dec. 10 in what was widely seen as an attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies, who was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. authorities.

Meng’s arrest set off a diplomatic furor and has severely strained Canadian relations with China.

The U.S. is seeking the extradiction of Meng, who is also the daughter of Huawei’s founder, to face charges she misled banks about the company’s business with Iran.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency cited unidentified Chinese authorities as saying former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig violated Chinese laws by acting as a spy and stealing state secrets and intelligence with the help of Canadian businessman Michael Spavor. It was the first time the two men’s cases have been linked.

It said Kovrig often entered China using an ordinary passport and business visas, and acquired information from Spavor, his “main contact.”

“Authorities stressed that China is a country ruled by law and will firmly crack down on criminal acts that severely undermine national security,” Xinhua said.

The same information was posted on the official news blog of the ruling Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission.

No other details were given and Xinhua said further judicial proceedings would “take place based on the case’s progress.”

Kovrig is a former diplomat who was working as an expert on Asia for the International Crisis Group think-tank . Spavor is an entrepreneur known for contacts with high-ranking North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un.

“We are aware of the Xinhua report of 4 March but have heard nothing official about any charges being laid against our colleague, Michael Kovrig,” said Hugh Pope, a spokesman for the International Crisis Group.

“Michael’s work for Crisis Group has been entirely transparent and in the open as all who follow his work can attest. Vague and unsubstantiated accusations against him are unwarranted and unfair.”

After Meng’s arrest, a Chinese court also sentenced a Canadian to death in a sudden retrial, overturning a 15-year prison term handed down earlier. Kovrig and Spavor haven’t had access to a lawyer or to their families since being arrested.

Canada said Friday that it will allow court hearings for the U.S. extradition request for Meng to proceed.

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said the new allegations against Kovrig and Spavor are a response to that action.

“Every step in the process will be matched by a step by China. The desire is to raise the raise the pressure to extent that we simply give in,” Mulroney said.

Meng is due in court on Wednesday to set a date for the extradition proceedings to start. It could be several months or even years before her case is resolved

Guy Saint-Jacques, also a former Canadian ambassador to China, said Beijing is clearly putting additional pressure on Canada.

“It’s a predicable escalation in the crisis,” he said. “They are probably hoping it will convince the prime minister to free Meng.”

Lawyers for Meng, who is staying at a property she owns in Vancouver after her release on bail, said Sunday she is suing the Canadian government, its border agency and the national police force, alleging she was detained, searched and interrogated before she was told she was under arrest.

Meng’s lawsuit alleges that instead of immediately arresting her, they interrogated her “under the guise of a routine customs” examination and used the opportunity to “compel her to provide evidence and information.”

Also Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang accused Canada and the U.S. of abusing their bilateral extradition treaty. He reiterated Beijing’s demand that Washington withdraw its accusations against Meng.

China urges Canada to “immediately release Ms. Meng Wanzhou and let her return to China in safety while ensuring her legitimate and justifiable rights and interests and not repeat (Canada’s) mistakes,” Lu said at a daily news briefing.

The U.S. has been lobbying its allies to shun Huawei’s products on national security grounds, saying Chinese law requires the company to provide the government with intelligence on its foreign clients whenever requested.

A Chinese government spokesman took issue Monday with the U.S. claims that Huawei poses a threat to other countries’ information security.

Spokesman Zhang Yesui said U.S. officials were taking China’s national security law out of context and “playing up the so-called security risks” associated with Chinese companies.

The 2017 law borrows from other countries’ experiences and is designed explicitly to “protect human rights and the lawful rights of individuals and organizations,” he said.

“This kind of behaviour is interference into economic activities by political means and is against World Trade Organization rules. It disrupts an international market order that is built on fair competition,” Zhang told reporters. “This is a typical case of double standards that is neither fair nor ethical.”

Christopher Bodeen And Rob Gillies, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 160 Comox, B.C. Poppy Chairman, Kent Guilford presenting cheques to the following organizations in support of their venues: (top left) The Sea Cadet Corps who assisted in last year’s Poppy campaign. (Top right) CFB Comox, Military Family Resource Center, Kim Hetherington, executive director MFRC. Bottom, The Views at St Joseph’s, Jessica Aldred, Health Care Foundation, Michael Aikins, senior operations leader. We wish to Thank All those who supported last year’s Poppy Campaign and we hope we will have your continued support this year. Thank you all.
Comox Valley gives back

Spotlight on some of the groups, businesses and individuals who make the Comox Valley great

Union Bay voters chose a new direction Saturday. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Union Bay voters opt for governance change

More than seventy per cent support dissolving UBID to roll services into regional district

A small plane crashed in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

Drift includes the work of poets from around the Comox Valley. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Drift features works by poets from the Comox Valley

Rather than have a set theme, the editors let 38 poets put their best work forward

Rogan is a three-year-old border collie who has an 'incredible bond' between him and a family member. Photo by Erin Haluschak
‘Incredible bond’ credited for dog who assisted in emergency

Three-year-old dog Rogan came to the rescue of a family member who fell

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

Most Read