Canada says China has granted consular access to second detainee

Businessman Michael Spavor was detained by China after Canadian police arrested Huawei Technologies Co's chief financial officer on Dec 1, 2018.
Businessman Michael Spavor was detained by China after Canadian police arrested Huawei Technologies Co's chief financial officer on Dec 1, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

OTTAWA (REUTERS) - Canadian diplomats received consular access on Sunday (Dec 16) to the second of two men detained by China over the past week, Canada's foreign ministry said in a statement that gave few details.

Mr John McCallum, Canada's ambassador to Beijing, has met Mr Michael Spavor, the statement said. Mr Spavor and Mr Michael Kovrig were both picked up after Canada arrested a senior Chinese executive on a United States extradition request. Mr McCallum met Mr Kovrig for the first time last Friday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - who said last Friday that the detentions were unacceptable - told CTV his government was taking the situation very seriously.

"We have engaged with the Chinese officials to determine what exactly conditions are they being detained under? Why are they being detained?" he said in an interview aired on Sunday. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last Friday that China should free the two men. China says they are both suspected of engaging in activities that endangered national security, but has given no details.

Speaking in Beijing on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said China and Canada had “smooth” consular communication on the cases of the two Canadians and confirmed China had arranged consular access for both of them. 

“At the same time, the lawful rights of these two Canadians have been guaranteed,” Hua told a daily news briefing, without elaborating on where they are being held, under what exact charges and under what conditions. 

Mr Spavor, a businessman, and Mr Kovrig, a former diplomat, were detained after Canadian police arrested Huawei Technologies Co's chief financial officer, Ms Meng Wanzhou, on Dec 1.

US prosecutors accuse Ms Meng of misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating US sanctions. Ms Meng, who is the daughter of Huawei's founder, has said she is innocent.

 
 
 

China has demanded Canada free Ms Meng and threatened unspecified consequences if it does not.

On Monday, influential state-back newspaper the Global Times said in an editorial that an escalation in the spat with Canada could be coming.

"In the struggle with Canada, China needs to prepare for the possibility of conflict escalation," it said.

"Beijing must take the contest seriously and maximise the support of international public opinion, leaving Western media no smear to slander its counterattacks as 'degradation of China's opening-up'."

Mr Trudeau told CTV that Canada would continue trying to build up trading ties with China.

"We need to do so in a way that is true to our values and stands up for Canadians' interests, and getting that balance right is complex. (It) has been made more difficult by recent trends," he said.