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China Charges 2 Canadians With Spying, Deepening and Political Standoff



BEIJING – Two Canadian men detained in China since December have been formally arrested on espionage charges, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, in a move likely to ratchet up tensions between China and Canada that broke out with the arrest of a Chinese

Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat who was detained while visiting Beijing, was charged with "collecting state secrets and intelligence for abroad," while Michael Spavor, a business consultant who was detained in north-east China, was accused of Lu Kang, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, told a regular news briefing.

The vague reference to unspecified overseas entities left open the question of whether men were suspected of working for a government or for some other organization

The charges are likely to anger the government of Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who condemned the initial detentions of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor as "arbitrary" and politically motivated. Supporters of both men and foreign legal experts have said that their detentions appear to be a retaliation for the arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, Chief Financial Officer of Huawei, China's largest telecommunication company, at the behest of the United States

Mr. Kovrig worked for the United Nations and the Canadian Foreign Service before 2017, when he joined the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that tries to defuse conflicts between states. He focused on Chinese foreign policy, Asian regional politics and North Korea, and he was often quoted in foreign news outlets and invited to meetings in China

Mr. Spavor followed a less conventional path, using his knowledge of the Korean language to establish himself as a consultant for companies and people interested in North Korea, including Dennis Rodman, the former basketball star who has befriended North's leader Kim Jong-un. Mr.

In early March, a legal affairs committee within the ruling Communist Party of China, the investigators believed that Mr. Kovrig had been "stealing and spying to get state secrets and intelligence," and that Mr.

Michael Spavor Credit Associated Press

But China's definition of state secrets can be sweeping and opaque, and International Crisis Group said Mr.

Since they were detained, Mr. Kovrig's work for it was in no way nefarious. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor have been held in secret detention sites, without visits by lawyers and family members. Canadian diplomats have been allowed to visit them about once a month. Mr. Lu, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, did not respond to questions Thursday about where the two men were being held

Human rights advocates on Thursday denounced the arrests of Mr. Kovrig and Mr.

"Their cases show how the Chinese criminal system violates the human rights of detainees," said Patrick Poon, a researcher for Amnesty International in Hong Kong. He called on Chinese officials to release the men, absent "credible and concrete evidence" of crimes.


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