China has confirmed it has detained a second Canadian man in what appears to be retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a top executive of telecommunications giant Huawei.
Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who is one of the only Westerners to have met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has not made contact with Canada’s Global Affairs department since being questioned, the department said on Wednesday.
Spavor’s disappearance follows China’s detention of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing earlier this week.
China said it had detained the two Canadian men on suspicion of “endangering national security” after they were taken into custody on Monday.
Lu said Canada has been informed of the detentions, but declined to say whether the men have been provided with lawyers. He said they are being handled separately.
Canada’s Global Affairs spokesman Guillaume Berube said earlier: “We have been unable to make contact (with Spavor) since he let us know he was being questioned by Chinese authorities.”
“We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we continue to raise this with the Chinese government.”
Spavor is a fluent Korean speaker with longstanding ties to the North through his company, Paektu Cultural Exchange.
He was instrumental in bringing NBA player Dennis Rodman to Pyongyang in 2013 and has organised a number of tours and joint cultural projects with the North since then.
His disappearance sparked immediate concern in the circle of people who travel to North Korea. Acquaintances said he was due in Seoul on Monday, but never showed up.
Canada’s announcement came hours after Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was worried another citizen had been detained in China following Monday’s arrest of Kovrig.
At the root of the dispute is Canada’s recent arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, for possible extradition to the United States.
A Canadian court on Tuesday released Meng on bail, confining her to Vancouver and its suburbs while she awaits possible extradition.
The US accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to do business with Iran in violation of US sanctions.
China has demanded the immediate release of Meng, who is also the daughter of its founder.
Asked if detentions were related to her arrest, Lu said they were being handled according to Chinese law.
The United States and China have taken pains this week to emphasise that their trade talks are entirely separate from the US case against the top Chinese technology executive.
But with a few words, President Donald Trump obliterated the distinction on Tuesday, saying he could wade into the case if it would help produce a trade agreement with China.
“If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what’s good for national security — I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” Trump told Reuters.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bristled at Trump’s assertion, saying: “Regardless of what goes on in other countries, Canada is, and will always remain, a country of the rule of law.”
Freeland said it was “quite obvious” any foreign country requesting extradition should ensure “the process is not politicised”.
Meng’s arrest came the same day that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed over dinner in Buenos Aires to a 90-day ceasefire in a trade war that has shaken global financial markets and raised worries about the impact on the world economy.