Beijing, Jun 19 (efe-epa) – A court in China has brought charges against two Canadian citizens, who have been in detention for more than 500 days, for allegedly collecting state secrets and providing them to foreign forces.
Prosecutors in the northeastern Liaoning province said in a statement that businessman Michael Spavor was “suspected of spying state secrets and illegally providing them to overseas forces” while former diplomat Michael Kovrig was “suspected of spying on state secrets and intelligence.”
China detained Kovrig and Spavor in December 2018 and put them “under investigation” on suspicion for “engaging in activities that endangered China’s national security.”
In 2019, the two Canadians were formally placed under arrest.
According to the Chinese authorities, Kovrig had traveled frequently to China since 2017 on “regular passport and business visa”, and “had spied on and stolen sensitive information and intelligence through contacts in China.”
The pair’s arrest appears to be aimed at securing the release of Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the Huawei founder and the company’s Chief Financial Officer, arrested in Canada on Dec. 1, 2018, at the request of the United States.
Although Beijing has been careful not to link the two cases, the arrests came after the Chinese authorities threatened Canada over the weekend with “grave consequences” if Meng Wanzhou was not released immediately.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government has repeatedly expressed concern over the fate of Kovrig and Spavor, who were arrested shortly after questioned by Chinese authorities.
Spavor, a native of Calgary in the Canadian province of Alberta, is one of the few Westerners to have met and spoken with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
He is the founder of Paektu Cultural Exchange, which maintains offices in London, Pyongyang, Beijing and Yanji in China’s Jilin Province. The group organizes, among other things, cultural exchange trips to North Korea with a strong focus on sports diplomacy.
Kovrig is a former diplomat who was stationed in Beijing and in the United Nations and was in charge of organizing the visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to China in Dec.2017.
At the time of his arrest, Kovrig was in China working for the nonprofit International Crisis Group, which China said then was not registered according to its laws. EFE-EPA