Government officials in Canada say a second Canadian citizen has gone “missing” in China, with Beijing saying he is being questioned over national security matters, days after Ottawa said Chinese authorities had detained a former Canadian diplomat.
Canada’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that it had been unable to contact Michael Spavor since he notified the government that he was being questioned by Chinese authorities.
“We are aware that a Canadian citizen, Mr. Michael Spavor, is presently missing in China,” ministry spokesman Guillaume Berube told AFP in an email. “We have been unable to make contact since he let us know he was being questioned by Chinese authorities.”
Shortly afterwards, a Chinese government website confirmed that Spavor — reportedly a businessman based in the northern Chinese city of Dandong — was in custody and was being questioned for “activities that endanger China’s national security,” without providing further details.
Before Spavor’s identity was disclosed, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland had told a press conference in Ottawa that the Canadian government was “working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised his case with Chinese authorities.”
The development comes days after Canada said its national Michael Kovrig had been arrested on a trip to Beijing.
A former Canadian diplomat has been arrested in China, amid tensions over the recent detention of a Chinese telecom executive in Vancouver.
Canadian officials said they had been officially informed of Kovrig’s detention via fax early on Monday.
“Canada is deeply concerned about the detention of Mr. Kovrig and Canada has raised the case directly with Chinese officials,” Freeland said.
A former diplomat, Kovrig was working in Hong Kong as the North East Asia senior adviser for the International Crisis Group (ICG).
The developments come amid a diplomatic dispute that was initiated when Canada arrested a Chinese national, Meng Wanzhou — who is the chief financial officer for the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei — at Vancouver’s airport on December 1.
The United States is seeking to have Meng extradited on allegations that she attempted to bypass American sanctions on Iran.
She was released in Canada on strict bail conditions on Tuesday.
Canada warns against politicizing extradition
On Wednesday, Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, warned Washington not to politicize extradition cases, a day after US President Donald Trump said he could intervene in Meng’s case if it helped seal a trade deal with China.
Freeland said it was obvious the legal process should not be hijacked for political purposes and that Meng’s lawyers would have the option of raising Trump’s remarks if they decided to fight extradition.
“Our extradition partners should not seek to politicize the extradition process or use it for ends other than the pursuit of justice and following the rule of law,” the Canadian foreign minister said.
Freeland said it would be “up to Ms. Meng’s lawyers whether they choose to raise comments in the US as part of their defense of Ms. Meng,” and that it “will be up to the Canadian judicial process, to Canadian judges, how to weigh the significance of what Ms. Meng’s lawyers say.”
The Huawie executive’s arrest has further intensified US-China tensions despite an apparent truce in their trade war, leading to the summoning of both the Canadian and US ambassadors by Beijing over the weekend.
Trump initiated what is effectively a trade war with China in April, when he first imposed unusually heavy tariffs on imports from the Asian country. Beijing later responded with retaliatory tariffs of its own.