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Canada demands China immediately release citizens detained in ‘retaliation’ arrests

25 December 2018

Canada is calling on China to immediately release two citizens it claims were arbitrarily detained there, just days after the arrest of a high-profile Chinese businesswoman.

While Meng has had full access to lawyers and is able to see family, Kovrig is being denied legal representation, is not allowed to see family, and is limited to one consular visit a month.

The European Union said the "declared motive" for the arrest and detention of Kovrig and Spavor "raises concerns about legitimate research and business practices in China". The United States has been looking since at least 2016 into whether Huawei shipped US -origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of USA export and sanctions laws, Reuters reported in April. "This is about the rule of law".

The show of support from allies is significant for Canada, which has felt relatively isolated in recent months, particularly following US President Donald Trump's criticism of Trudeau and his lack of public support. "This is about the rule of law".

Canada demands China release Canadians for the first time

Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing who has been China analyst for the International Crisis Group think-thank for the last two years, and Michael Spavor, who lives in Dandong and promotes exchanges with North Korea, were both detained December 10 on suspicion of endangering China's national security.

The Canadians were arrested for what China has said is suspicion of "harm to national security" - a phrase often used by Beijing when alleging espionage.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second from left, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis right, and their Canadian counterparts Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, second from right, and Canadian Minister of Defense Harjit Sajjan, left, leave the Benjamin Franklin Room as they conclude their news conference following a U.S. "I call for them to be treated in a fair, unbiased and transparent manner".

This is the third case announced by China's Foreign Ministry in which Canadian citizens have been investigated or detained by Chinese authorities since December 13.

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"At the request of the USA side, the Canadian side arrested a Chinese citizen not violating any American or Canadian law".

However one conflict-resolution expert cautioned against unnecessary grandstanding.

"We know this is routine under the Chinese system".

But the last thing you want is for emotions to escalate and misunderstandings to occur.

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Many of them are out on bail or serving probation. One of those other Canadians is Alberta teacher Sarah McIver, who Chinese authorities have said was facing "administrative punishment" relating to her employment.

Kovrig and Spavor are among some 200 Canadians who are now being detained in China for various infractions, a federal official confirmed, noting that that number has remained "relatively stable" in recent days. Sources on the Canadian side have said it's related to visa issues.

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Canada demands China immediately release citizens detained in ‘retaliation’ arrests