Beijing: Two Canadian nationalists detained in China since December last year on national security grounds have been formally arrested, country’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
Businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were arrested separately in China in December on different charges, shortly after Canada had arrested Huawei technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the United States.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had condemned the initial detention of Spavor and Kovrig as “arbitrary” and politically motivated.” Thursday’s development will likely inflame tensions between Beijing and Ottawa that broke out with the arrest of Wanzhou, reported The New York Times.
Wanzhou may soon be extradited to the US, where she faces charges over suspected violation of the US sanctions against Iran.
The United States has pressured allies not to use Huawei’s technology, arguing that China could use it to spy on other countries. These efforts intensified when US President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring American companies from using telecom equipment made by firms believed to pose a “national security risk”, including Huawei.
Lu Kang, a spokesman for the foreign ministry told media here on Thursday that Michael Kovrig has been charged with gathering state secrets and intelligence for abroad, while Michael Spavor has been accused of stealing and providing state secrets for abroad.
“Everything in China is done in accordance with the law,” Mr Lu said. Responding to a reporter’s question about Canadian officials’ criticism of how China handled the cases, he said: “We hope Canada will not interfere with or comment casually on China’s legal system and lawful practices.”
The development comes amidst the escalating trade spat between the US and China. Washington imposed fresh tariff hikes on Chinese imports amounting to USD 200 billion, alleging that Beijing had backed out of the trade deal as it neared fruition. In response, China announced its intent to increase tariffs on US goods entering the country starting from June 1.