Canadians Micheal Spavor and Michael Kovrig received consular visits from Foreign Affairs officials on Monday according to the department. It was Kovrig’s tenth such visit and Spavor’s ninth since the pair were detained separately last December by authorities in China.
Their arrests came nine days after Canadian official arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou as she was transiting through Vancouver International Airport on December 1, 2018.
Meng remains under house arrest, awaiting a decision on an extradition order by the United States where she would face fraud and conspiracy charges involving Huawei’s dealings with Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions levelled against the Islamic regime for its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Spavor and Kovrig were held more than five months before being formally “arrested” with spying in mid-May – detainment and charges which the Canadian government continues to class as “arbitrary” while also calling for their immediate release.
“Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed,” said Global Affairs Canada in a release Tuesday morning about the most recent consular interactions with the men.
Spavor is a businessman with operations in Dandong city, located along the Yalu River, which runs between the border with North Korea in China’s Liaoning province. Spavor’s previous work includes charity sport exchanges with North Korea and he visited Beijing with NBA star Dennis Rodman in 2014 en route to one such exchange.
Kovrig was formerly a diplomat to China and Hong Kong on a leave of absence and working for Northeast Asia with the International Crisis Group as a senior advisor. Based in Hong Kong, Kovrig was a regular guest and contributor to local media who provided his expertise on regional affairs.
In addition to their arrests, China has also hit Canadian agriculture exports with embargoes on canola, soy, pork and beef product. Meng’s lawyers have also opened up a public relations front, arguing in Canadian media that U.S. law should not apply on Canadian soil and offering a preview of arguments against her extradition.
The sanctions and detentions brought by China against Canada are collateral damage from an even more complex diplomatic row involving China, United States, by extension Huawei’s business dealings in Iran and separately, the tech firm’s possible deployment of its 5G hardware on Canada’s domestic telecom networks.
Allied “Five Eyes” intelligence members United States, New Zealand and Australia have already banned Huawei 5G from their network due to national security concerns and United Kingdom has since announced restrictions for its domestic telecoms. Meanwhile the Canadian government has yet to make any such determination.
Further complicating matters is the titanic trade war between United States and China, in which U.S. President Donald Trump has portrayed Meng as potential bargaining chip.
During Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to Washington D.C. in June, he asked Trump to lobby Chinese President Xi Jinping for the Canadians’ release at their bilateral G20 confab in Osaka, Japan later that month.
The communist regime continues to rebuff direct communications by Trudeau or his Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland – during the latest G20, the PM got but a two-minute ‘side meeting’ with Xi prior to a cultural event at the summit.
Hopes of any breakthrough in Shanghai last week, where U.S. and China trade reps met to try and resolve the crisis, were dashed after Trump promised to increase tariffs on additional goods and China retaliated by halting all American agriculture imports on Monday.
While China disputes it has banned U.S. agriculture goods, its central bank allowed its currency to fall below a benchmark 7-yuan against the American dollar; an action Trump describes as currency manipulation.
From Canada’s line of sight, the crisis has also cascaded into domestic politics. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer continues to call for tougher action, including Canada’s withdrawal of $250 million in loans to backstop China’s infrastructure bank.
Also last week, the Liberal majority on Foreign Affairs committee voted down an inquiry into Trudeau’s meddling in former diplomats’ public statements on deteriorating Canada-China relations.
Opposition MPs on the committee demanded an ’emergency meeting’ to investigate reports that a Foreign Affairs bureaucrat was directed by the Prime Minister’s Office to ask former ambassadors to China David Mulroney and Guy Saint-Jacques to “check in” before uttering any future pronouncements.