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

Okanagan Sleigh & Wagon are on board for the 2020/2021 season up at SilverStar Mountain. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Horse sleigh rides on board at SilverStar

Okanagan Sleigh & Wagon running fourth year of magical adventures

The Vernon Public Art Gallery is looking to the community to support its programming, which VantageOne Credit Union is matching for Giving Tuesday. (VPAG image)
Vernon art gallery gets a boost for Giving Tuesday

VantageOne Credit Union matching donations

Vernon’s fall leaf clear bag pick-up program is experiencing a slight delay, the city said Nov. 24, 2020. (Stock photo)
Vernon leaf pick-up program delayed

A higher participation rate has put the program slightly behind schedule

Evergreens, especially berry-producing varieties, can provide colour and interest to your garden in the winter snows. (Pixabay photo)
A Gardener’s Diary: Coldframes give leg up on spring planting

Columnist Jocelyne Sewell plans winter planting ahead of December

A new dog licensing program, a partnership of the Regional District of North Okanagan and DocuPet, has raised more than $1,600 for the Vernon and District branch of the BC SPCA since its launch three weeks ago. (Photo submitted)
New program raising funds for Vernon SPCA branch

More than $1,600 raised in three weeks since the new dog licensing program started

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; drug toxicity continues to increase

COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the overdose crisis

The City of Salmon Arm erected a fence around the Ross Street Plaza on Nov. 24/2020, citing reasons centering on safety and security due to camping by people who don’t have homes. The closure is temporary but it’s not known when it will be reopened. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
City of Salmon Arm erects fence around public plaza to prevent camping

Lieutenant says lack of public space affects people without homes but he understands city’s decision

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

An accountant at the Adventure Hotel is in hospital in Kelowna

Interior Health and School District 83 are responding to a confirmed COVID-19 exposure at the Salmon Arm Secondary Sullivan campus. (File photo)
COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Salmon Arm Secondary Sullivan campus

School District 83 says member of school community self-isolating at home

Gord Portman has been reunited with his dog Zippy after reaching out to the community for help covering the cost of Zippy’s surgery. Zippy had successful mouth surgery Nov. 19, 2020 and has made a full recovery since. (Jesse Day - Western News)
Penticton rallies to save dog’s life

Gord Portman reached out to the community to help with the cost of his dog’s surgery

Ashley Stone’s Village App is one of the semi-finalists for the Total Mom Pitch. (The Village App - Facebook)
Kelowna mom’s app semi-finalist in Canada’s Total Mom Pitch

Ashley Stone is developing an app called Village, a community-based messaging platform where people can ask for and offer help

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Most Read