2nd CAnA­diAn miss­ing in ChinA

Day af­ter for­mer en­voy ar­rested, held by Bei­jing


• Af­ter Bei­jing au­thor­i­ties de­tained one Cana­dian cit­i­zen this week and ac­cused him of spy­ing, in a case many are link­ing to Canada’s re­cent ar­rest of a high-pro­file Chi­nese ex­ec­u­tive, a sec­ond Cana­dian cit­i­zen has gone miss­ing in China and may be in trou­ble.

Dur­ing a press con­fer­ence Wednes­day, For­eign Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land con­firmed that Michael Kovrig, a for­mer diplo­mat in China on leave from her de­part­ment, was de­tained in Bei­jing ear­lier this week.

Free­land said that Cana­dian of­fi­cials have been un­able to reach a sec­ond Cana­dian who con­tacted the Cana­dian govern­ment af­ter be­ing ques­tioned by Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties.

An of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said late Wednes­day that the other Cana­dian was en­tre­pre­neur Michael Spa­vor, di­rec­tor of Paektu Cul­tural Ex­change.

Free­land said that Cana­dian of­fi­cials were “work­ing hard to find out” where Spa­vor is, and were in touch with his fam­ily. As for Kovrig, “we are very per­son­ally con­cerned,” she added. “We have ex­pressed that con­cern di­rectly to Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties and we are in di­rect per­sonal con­tact with his fam­ily. We are very seized of this is­sue and we’re go­ing to keep on work­ing on it.”

Although the Cana­dian govern­ment was aware Kovrig had been de­tained by the Bei­jing State Se­cu­rity Bu­reau, they had not as­cer­tained his where­abouts as of late Wednes­day af­ter­noon, nor had au­thor­i­ties pro­vided any in­for­ma­tion as to the rea­son for his de­ten­tion, a se­nior Cana­dian govern­ment of­fi­cial said.

Paektu Cul­tural Ex­change, which calls it­self “a Cana­dian owned China-based or­ga­ni­za­tion,” says on its web­site that it fa­cil­i­tates tours to North Ko­rea for “sport, cul­ture, busi­ness and tourism ex­changes.”

Spa­vor, its di­rec­tor, is one of the few Western­ers to have ever met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He helped ar­range a visit to North Ko­rea by for­mer NBA player Den­nis Rod­man.

Chi­nese state me­dia, which are closely linked to the govern­ment, were re­port­ing Wednes­day that Kovrig is sus­pected of harm­ing the coun­try’s na­tional se­cu­rity.

Sources in­clud­ing for­mer Cana­dian am­bas­sador to China Guy Saint-Jac­ques had con­firmed to the Na­tional Post on Tues­day that Kovrig’s du­ties in­cluded trav­el­ling through­out China to re­port on the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, which in­cluded speak­ing with po­lit­i­cal dis­si­dents. Since early 2017, Kovrig has worked for the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group, a Hong Kong­based or­ga­ni­za­tion that mon­i­tors hu­man rights abuses.

Saint-Jac­ques and an­other for­mer am­bas­sador to China, David Mul­roney, said they believe the for­mer diplo­mat’s de­ten­tion comes as a di­rect re­sponse to Canada’s ar­rest of Meng Wanzhou in Van­cou­ver ear­lier this month. Meng, the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions gi­ant Huawei, could be ex­tra­dited to the U.S. for al­legedly help­ing her com­pany vi­o­late Amer­i­can eco­nomic sanc­tions against Iran by pro­vid­ing it with equip­ment. She was re­leased on bail Tues­day.

The Amer­i­cans must pro­vide a full case file to Cana­dian pros­e­cu­tors by the end of Jan­uary. Then, Canada has 30 days to de­ter­mine whether to for­mally start the ex­tra­di­tion process, which re­sults in an ex­tra­di­tion hear­ing at British Co­lum­bia’s Supreme Court. If the court ap­proves ex­tra­di­tion, Meng can ap­peal that de­ci­sion all the way up to the fed­eral Supreme Court, which could take a long time. If the ap­peals fail, the fi­nal de­ci­sion to send her to the U.S. rests with Canada’s at­tor­ney gen­eral.

In that case, said Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould in a state­ment on Wednes­day, “I will ul­ti­mately have to de­cide on the is­sue of sur­ren­der of the per­son sought for ex­tra­di­tion. There­fore, it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for me to com­ment on the facts of this case at this time. Do­ing so would risk un­der­min­ing both the in­de­pen­dence of the court pro­ceed­ings and the proper func­tion­ing of Canada’s ex­tra­di­tion process.”

Meng’s coun­sel could ask for a ju­di­cial re­view of the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s de­ci­sion, mean­ing the jus­tice min­is­ter would have to dis­close the ad­vice she (or a fu­ture at­tor­ney gen­eral) re­ceived from of­fi­cials. Even so, about 90 per cent of ex­tra­di­tions to the U.S. are granted, ac­cord­ing to a sec­ond se­nior Cana­dian govern­ment of­fi­cial.

Although it is “rare,” ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial, the U.S. at­tor­ney gen­eral could also just choose to drop the ex­tra­di­tion re­quest.

While the Cana­dian lead­er­ship has been care­ful to stress that there has been no po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in the ex­tra­di­tion, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has ex­plic­itly linked Meng’s pros­e­cu­tion to his coun­try’s trade re­la­tion­ship with China. Trump told Reuters in an in­ter­view on Wednes­day he would “cer­tainly in­ter­vene” in Meng’s ex­tra­di­tion should it be “good” for trade.

Free­land did not di­rectly com­ment on those re­marks but made it clear she dis­agrees with the idea. “Our ex­tra­di­tion part­ners should not seek to politi­cize the ex­tra­di­tion process or use it for ends other than the pur­suit of jus­tice and fol­low­ing the rule of law,” she said.

On the same day that Meng was ar­rested, Dec. 1, Trump and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping an­nounced a three-month de­tente in their trade war. Any fur­ther es­ca­la­tion in the tit-for-tat tar­iffs, which the world’s two big­gest economies have al­ready placed on hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars worth of trade, could harm the global econ­omy writ large.


Huawei chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Meng Wanzhou ar­rives at a pa­role of­fice with a se­cu­rity guard in Van­cou­ver on Wednes­day, af­ter be­ing re­leased on $10 mil­lion bail Tues­day.


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