As Huawei Row Intensifies, China Detains Another Canadian National

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Monitoring Desk: In what appeared to be deepening diplomatic tensions following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, Chinese officials detained second Canadian on the same accusation of harming national security on Thursday.

Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, has been taken into custody in addition to former diplomat Michael Kovrig, Chinese government confirmed.

Canada faced Chinese protests after it arrested the executive at telecoms giant Huawei at the request of the US.

Ms Wanzhou has been bailed but may face extradition for fraud.

She denies violating US sanctions on Iran through Huawei’s business dealings and China has threatened unspecified consequences if she is not released.

So high-profile is the case that US President Donald Trump has said he could intervene if it helps to avoid further decline in US relations with China.

Spavor is a businessman based in Dandong, near the Chinese border with North Korea. He has deep ties to the North Korean government.

Ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig currently works for a think tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), which has said it is concerned for his health and safety.

However, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, suggested another reason, saying the ICG had not been registered as a non-governmental organisation in China and therefore it was unlawful for its staff to work there.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Mr Kovrig’s case was raised directly with Chinese officials.

Foreign ministry spokesman Guillaume Bérubé confirmed that Mr Spavor had contacted them earlier in the week because “he was being asked questions by Chinese authorities”.

Canada is working hard to determine Mr Spavor’s whereabouts, Mr Bérubé said.

China state media confirmed on Thursday that, as with the previous arrest, Mr Spavor was under investigation on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger China‘s national security”.

Mr Spavor runs an organisation called Paektu Cultural Exchange, which organises business, culture and tourism trips to North Korea.

He is a regular visitor to North Korea and regularly comments in the media on Korean issues. He is particularly well known for helping to arrange the visit by former NBA star Dennis Rodman to North Korea in 2013.

Rodman is a personal friend of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

One of Mr Spavor’s last tweets, on Sunday, said he was about to travel to Seoul in South Korea, but he did not arrive on Monday as planned.

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