Fundrais­ing ef­forts shut down

Trump re­spects ‘rule of law’ in ex­tra­di­tion case, Trudeau’s of­fice says

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - NATIONAL NEWS - JIM BRON­SKILL

OT­TAWA — U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has af­firmed his re­spect for ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence, the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice says, less than a month af­ter the U.S. pres­i­dent baldly said he would in­ter­vene in Meng Wanzhou’s pend­ing ex­tra­di­tion from Canada if it would help forge a trade deal with China.

In a sum­mary of a phone call Mon­day be­tween Trump and Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, the PMO in­di­cated the lead­ers dis­cussed the high-pro­file U.S. ex­tra­di­tion re­quest — though Meng was not named — and agreed on the im­por­tance of re­spect­ing the in­de­pen­dence of judges and the rule of law.

China has pressed Canada to get Meng freed from the ex­tra­di­tion process, which Cana­dian politi­cians have replied they sim­ply aren’t al­lowed to do.

Trudeau also thanked Trump for the “strong state­ments of sup­port” by the U.S. in re­sponse to the “ar­bi­trary de­ten­tion” of two Cana­di­ans in China, the sum­mary says. “The two lead­ers agreed to con­tinue to seek their re­lease.”

En­tre­pre­neur Michael Spa­vor and fel­low Cana­dian Michael Kovrig, a diplo­mat on leave from Global Af­fairs Canada, were taken into Chi­nese cus­tody on se­cu­rity grounds in De­cem­ber.

Bei­jing’s ac­tions came just days af­ter Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties in Van­cou­ver ar­rested Meng, a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive with Chi­nese firm Huawei Tech­nolo­gies, who is wanted by the U.S. on fraud charges. Meng ’s ar­rest in­fu­ri­ated Bei­jing, and many western an­a­lysts see China’s de­ten­tion of Spa­vor and Kovrig as re­tal­i­a­tion.

Trudeau said at the time that Canada, which has an ex­tra­di­tion treaty with the U.S., was merely fol­low­ing stan­dard le­gal pro­to­col. Kelly Craft, the U.S. am­bas­sador to Canada, told re­porters it was “ab­so­lutely false” to as­sume a po­lit­i­cal mo­tive be­hind Meng’s ar­rest. How­ever, Trump mud­died the wa­ters the same day by telling Reuters in an in­ter­view that he would “cer­tainly in­ter­vene” in Meng’s case “if I thought it was nec­es­sary” to help en­sure a trade deal with China.

Canada has called for the im­me­di­ate re­lease of Kovrig and Spa­vor. Each man has had a sin­gle con­sular visit from John McCal­lum, Ot­tawa’s am­bas­sador to China. A Cana­dian par­lia­men­tary del­e­ga­tion, long sched­uled to visit China, is do­ing what it can this week to help se­cure the pair’s free­dom. A Mon­day opin­ion piece in the China Daily news­pa­per, pub­lished by the coun­try’s Com­mu­nist Party, ac­cused Canada of act­ing “as a loyal ad­her­ent of the U.S. in the Meng de­ten­tion drama.”

“By con­tin­u­ing to fol­low the U.S., ei­ther pas­sively or ac­tively, Canada will even­tu­ally harm its na­tional in­ter­ests,” said the ar­ti­cle by Li Qingsi, a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional stud­ies at Ren­min Univer­sity in China.

“If Canada in­sists on fol­low­ing the old track, it may not ben­e­fit much from a big trad­ing part­ner like China.”

Mean­while, a friend of Spa­vor says he is con­cerned about the de­tained Cana­dian’s well-be­ing and fi­nan­cial fu­ture now that an on­line fundrais­ing ef­fort in his name has been de­railed.

An­dray Abra­hamian, a lec­turer at Stan­ford Univer­sity in Cal­i­for­nia, was among the or­ga­niz­ers of a GoFundMe cam­paign for Spa­vor. “I worry about many things, start­ing with his health and emo­tional well-be­ing,” Abra­hamian said Mon­day.

GoFundMe said the cam­paign in Spa­vor’s name was shut down be­cause its third-party pay­ment pro­ces­sor, which made the de­ci­sion, was un­able to han­dle the do­na­tions.

GoFundMe spokes­woman Rachel Hol­lis would not elab­o­rate on the rea­son, but said the fundrais­ing por­tal re­lies on such pro­ces­sors to make sure money trans­fers made on­line “are se­curely pro­cessed and ver­i­fied, help­ing us to keep GoFundMe the safest place to do­nate on­line.”

The back­ers were told “it was for a ‘terms and con­di­tions’ vi­o­la­tion, but noth­ing more spe­cific than that,” Abra­hamian said. “Ba­si­cally, nearly ev­ery­body’s money was re­funded Fri­day with­out no­tice, then the next day the page was shut down.”

Spa­vor is di­rec­tor of the Paektu Cul­tural Ex­change, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that fa­cil­i­tates sport­ing, cul­tural, tourism and busi­ness ex­changes with North Korea — a largely iso­lated coun­try sub­ject to a num­ber of in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions over its nu­clear-weapons pro­gram.

Abra­hamian said the fundrais­ing ef­fort was in­tended to cre­ate “a lit­tle pot of money” to help with Spa­vor’s le­gal fees or other costs and, when the stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ence is over, to aid his re­cov­ery and read­just­ment.

“Once the is­sue with China is re­solved, he prob­a­bly won’t be able to tran­sit through that coun­try, mean­ing he won’t be able to con­tinue his work pro­mot­ing ex­changes,” Abra­hamian said.

“So we wanted to help buy him some time while he fig­ures out what’s next. We also were hop­ing his fam­ily could use the money to have his pos­ses­sions col­lected and shipped back to Canada.

“We’re try­ing to fig­ure out how to best so­licit do­na­tions again, but are afraid we won’t be as suc­cess­ful as this past at­tempt. It was Christ­mas­time, af­ter all.”

Michael Spa­vor

Michael Kovrig

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