Michael Kovrig (left) and Michael Spavor have been detained in China since December. File photo.

Michael Kovrig (left) and Michael Spavor have been detained in China since December. File photo.

China has formally arrested two Canadian citizens it’s been holding since December in an apparent effort to pressure Canada into releasing a Chinese telecom executive.

The move brings the two men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, closer to trial on vaguely defined state security charges.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Thursday that Kovrig and Spavor have been arrested for allegedly stealing state secrets, but gave no other details.

Global Affairs Canada also confirmed the arrest, while reiterating Canada’s demand that the two men be released.

Kovrig is a former Canadian diplomat and expert at the International Crisis Group, and Spavor is a businessman with lengthy experience in North Korea.

Both were arrested on Dec. 10 after Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive with telecom giant Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. authorities who want her extradited to face fraud charges.

“Canada strongly condemns their arbitrary arrest as we condemned their arbitrary detention on Dec. 10,” Global Affairs spokeswoman Brittany Fletcher said in a statement.

“Canadian consular officials have made recent consular visits to the two men and will continue to provide consular services to them and their families.”

The Canadian Press