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Canada granted consular access to exdiplomat held by China: official

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

espionage.

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.

Visit shelved

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

China.

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

the country.

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)