OTTAWA, Canada's ambassador met in Beijing Friday with a detained former diplomat for the first time since he was arrested in China amid sharpening EastWest tensions over trade and other issues.
Michael Kovrig, the former diplomat, and a second Canadian, Michael Spavor,
were taken into custody earlier in the week after a top Chinese tech
executive was arrested in Vancouver at the request of the United States.
Canada's foreign ministry said its ambassador to Beijing, John McCallum,
was granted consular access to Kovrig and is pressing for access to Spavor.
Speaking to The Canadian Press, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau predicted that
access would take place shortly.
We are being absolutely clear on standing up for our citizens who have
been detained, trying to figure out why, trying to work with China to
demonstrate that this not acceptable, he told Citytv in Toronto.
Meanwhile in Washington, Canada's foreign and defense ministers held talks
with their US counterparts on the row.
The Canadians were arrested for what China has said is suspicion of harm
to national security a phrase often used by Beijing when alleging
But the detentions are widely believed to be retaliation for Canada's
arrest December 1 of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese
telecom giant Huawei.
Meng was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver, outraging China and
sparking a diplomatic standoff between the North American allies and Beijing.
This is one of the situations you get in when the two largest economies in
the world, China and the United States, start picking a fight with each
other, Trudeau said.
The escalating trade war between them is going to have all sorts of
unintended consequences for Canada, potentially the entire global economy.
We're very worried about that.
The United States has accused her of lying to bankers about the use of a
covert subsidiary to sell to Iran in breach of sanctions. If convicted, she
faces more than 30 years in prison.
On Tuesday, a Canadian judge ordered Meng's release on Can$10 million ($7.5
million US) bail, pending a US extradition hearing.
Canadian Tourism Minister Melanie Joly, meanwhile, shelved a trip to China
next week to promote tourism.
Since Beijing approved Canada as a tourist destination for its citizens in
2010, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Canada has risen by 20 percent
per year to almost 700,000 in 2017.
Ottawa had hoped to double the figure by 2021, opening seven new visa
application offices in China this year to facilitate the processing of travel
documents. But those targets are now in doubt amid a public backlash in
Kovrig, who works for the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, was
being investigated by the Beijing bureau of state security, while the
agency's office in northeastern Liaoning province was handling the probe into
Spavor, Lu said.
Spavor is a Chinabased business consultant who facilitates trips to North
Korea, met with its leader Kim Jong Un and arranged some of retired NBA star
Dennis Rodman's trips to the country.
China's foreign ministry said ICG was not registered in China and its
employees would be in violation of the law if they engage in activities in
ICG closed its office in the Chinese capital after Beijing passed a law on
NGOs, which came into force in 2017, to better control the activities on its
soil of foreign organizations.
Kovrig was based in Hong Kong for ICG, working on foreign policy and
security issues in the region, particularly on the Korean Peninsula.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)