China says 'no doubt' two detained Canadians broke law

Diplomat Michael Kovrig (left) and Michael Spavor were seized separately last month by China's spy agency.
Diplomat Michael Kovrig (left) and Michael Spavor were seized separately last month by China's spy agency.PHOTOS: AFP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China's top prosecutor said there is "no doubt" that two Canadian citizens detained in the country violated its laws and regulations and that both men remain under investigation.

"The investigation is in line with the due process of law, and we believe it will proceed accordingly," Mr Zhang Jun, procurator-general of China's Supreme People's Procuratorate, said during a briefing in Beijing on Thursday (Jan 3).

China has said the Canadians are being held on grounds of threatening national security. They have been detained for more than three weeks without a hearing.

Diplomat Michael Kovrig, who is based in Hong Kong while on leave to work with the International Crisis Group, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who helped organise tourist trips to North Korea, were seized separately last month by China's spy agency - the first case coming just nine days after Canada arrested Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on Dec 1 at the United States' request.

Neither China nor Canada have directly linked the two men's cases, but they led to speculation of retaliation for Ms Meng's arrest.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month called the detentions "not acceptable" and said they were an example of worrying fallout from the unprecedented trade war between the US and China.

Little has been heard of the two men since they were taken. Kovrig has been held at a secret detention facility, questioned three times a day and unable to turn off the light, Bloomberg News reported. He was allowed a brief visit by Canadian Ambassador John McCallum in Beijing. Mr McCallum has also met Spavor at least once.


On Dec 24, foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying dismissed criticism from the US and Canada on its treatment of the two men, saying that China has abided by the law, protected Kovrig's interests and fulfilled its consular obligations. She repeated that Canada should withdraw its arrest warrant on Ms Meng.

The foreign ministry said earlier last month that Kovrig and Spavor are "suspected of engaging in activities endangering national security", without specifying whether their cases were linked.