Chinese official media on Monday accused two Canadians detained in China of acting together to steal state secrets, just days after Canada announced it will proceed with a U.S. extradition request for a senior Chinese tech executive.
The Xinhua News Agency cited unidentified Chinese authorities as saying former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig violated Chinese laws by acting as a spy and stealing Chinese state secrets and intelligence with the help of Canadian businessman Michael Spavor.
Both Canadians were arrested on Dec. 10 in what was widely seen as an attempt to pressure Canada to release Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. authorities.
Canada said last Friday that it will allow a U.S. extradition request for Meng to proceed. Meng is chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei and the daughter of its founder. The U.S. is seeking Meng’s extradition to face charges she misled banks about the company’s business with Iran.
Xinhua accused Kovrig of often entering China using an ordinary passport and business visas, and acquiring information from his “main contact,” Spavor.
“Authorities stressed that China is a country ruled by law and will firmly crack down on criminal acts that severely undermine national security,” Xinhua said.
The same information was posted on the official news blog of the ruling Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission.
Kovrig is a former diplomat who was working as an expert on Asia for the International Crisis Group think-tank.
Spavor is an entrepreneur known for contacts with high-ranking North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, with whom he has been photographed shaking hands and laughing.
Meng remains under house arrest in Vancouver and has filed suit against the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency, claiming they violated her rights when she was arrested in early December.
She is due back in a Vancouver court on Wednesday.
Files by The Canadian Press.