Micheal Spavor is still dentained in China as Huawei row continues

A second Canadian has been detained in China on accusations of harming national security, as tension continues between the two countries.

It was confirmed on Thursday that Michael Spavor, a businessman, had been detained in addition to former diplomat Michael Kovrig.

Canada drew Chinese protests after it arrested an executive at telecoms giant Huawei at the request of the US.

Meng Wanzhou has been bailed but may face extradition for fraud.

She denies violating US sanctions on Iran through Huawei’s business dealings. China has threatened unspecified consequences if she is not released.

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What’s going on with Huawei?
So high-profile is the case that US President Donald Trump said he could intervene if it helped to avoid a further decline in relations between the US and China , which are locked in a trade war.

However, Mr Trump’s own officials frowned on the idea, with US Assistant Attorney General John Demers remarking: “What we do at the Justice Department is law enforcement. We don’t do trade.”

Who are the two Canadians?
Michael Spavor is a businessman based in Dandong, near the Chinese border with North Korea. He has deep ties to the North Korean government.

Ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig currently works for a think tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), which has said it is concerned for his health and safety.

Timeline of events
1 December: Meng Wanzhou arrested in Canadian city of Vancouver at the request of the US as part of an inquiry into alleged sanctions-busting by her company Huawei

10 December: Canadian former diplomat Michael Kovrig arrested in Beijing “on suspicion of engaging in activities that harm China’s state security”

11 December: Meng Wanzhou released on bail but still faces the prospect of extradition to the US

12 December: China confirms the detention of businessman Michael Spavor for “activities that endanger China’s national security”, saying the investigation began on 10 December

He is being held officially “on suspicion of engaging in activities that harm China’s state security”.

Checks by Reuters news agency did not turn up a registration for ICG on government databases for NGOs or social enterprises.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Mr Kovrig’s case was raised directly with Chinese officials.

What happened to Michael Spavor?
Canadian foreign ministry spokesman Guillaume Bérubé confirmed that Mr Spavor had contacted them earlier in the week because “he was being asked questions by Chinese authorities”.

One of his last Facebook posts, on Sunday, said he was about to travel to Seoul in South Korea but he did not arrive on Monday as planned.

As with the previous arrest, Mr Spavor is under investigation on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security”.

Mr Spavor runs an organisation called Paektu Cultural Exchange, which organises business, culture and tourism trips to North Korea.

He is a regular visitor to North Korea and regularly comments in the media on Korean issues.

He is particularly well known for helping to arrange the visit by former NBA star Dennis Rodman to North Korea in 2013. Rodman is a personal friend of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Why was Meng arrested?
The former Canadian resident was detained in Vancouver where she has family and property connections.

She was granted bail of C$10m (£6m; $7.4m) on Tuesday but could still be extradited to the US.

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Who does business with Iran?
The Supreme Court of British Columbia was told Ms Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer, had used Skycom between 2009 and 2014.

She had allegedly tricked US banks into clearing transactions for Huawei which were in reality for Skycom. The banks thus became “victim institutions” of fraud.

“Ms Meng personally represented to those banks that Skycom and Huawei were separate, when in fact they were not separate,” said Crown attorney John Gibb-Carlsey. “Skycom was Huawei.”

Lawyers for Ms Meng told the court Huawei had already separated itself from Skycom.

Ms Meng faces up to 30 years in prison in the US if found guilty of the charges, the Canadian court heard.

Are the arrests in China an act of retaliation?
After the detention of Mr Kovrig, Canada said there was no “explicit indication” of any link to the Meng case but China experts doubted that it was just a coincidence.

Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s former ambassador to China, told Canadian broadcaster CBC: “In China there are no coincidences … If they want to send you a message, they will send you a message.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Western diplomat in China told Reuters news agency: “This is a political kidnapping.”

Asked if the detention of the two Canadians was in response to Ms Meng’s arrest, China’s foreign ministry spokesman described it as an “operation taken by China’s relevant national security authorities in accordance with the laws”.

Lu Kang said Ms Meng’s arrest was “wrong practice”, adding: “I can point out that, since the Canadian government took the wrong action at the request of the US and took Meng Wanzhou into custody, many Chinese are wondering if their trips to Canada are safe.”

Huawei, China, Spavor 


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