Ambassador Visits Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor Detained in China

November 20, 2020 Updated: November 20, 2020

Canada’s ambassador to China has visited two Canadians who have been detained for nearly two years in apparent retaliation for the arrest Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant.

Ambassador Dominic Barton was granted onsite virtual consular access to Michael Kovrig on Nov. 19 and Michael Spavor on Nov. 10, according a news release from Global Affairs. 

The federal government says no further information can be disclosed about the meetings due to provisions of the Privacy Act. The government says it remains deeply concerned by the “arbitrary detention” of Kovrig and Spavor and continues to call for their immediate release.

The pair have been held in China since December 2018; they were detained just days after Canada arrested Huawei’s Meng, who is the daughter of the company’s founder, in Vancouver on Dec. 1.

Ottawa has accused Beijing of detaining the men to pressure Canada to release Meng, who is under house arrest in Vancouver while she challenges a U.S. extradition order to face fraud charges related to trade sanctions on Iran. Beijing says Canada has no right to hold Meng, and says Kovrig and Spavor are suspected of national security crimes.

The United States has urged Canada and its allies in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network to exclude Huawei equipment from their 5G wireless networks because it views the company as an espionage arm of the Chinese state. Canada is the only country in the Five Eyes not to ban or plan to ban the company from its 5G.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently referred to China’s actions as “coercive diplomacy” and said Canada needs to work closely with its allies to “hold a common front” against Beijing’s intimidation. 

Meanwhile, opposition parties are insisting that the Liberal government take a harder line against what they say are national security threats posed by the Chinese regime.

A motion, sponsored by Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong, passed on Nov. 18 by 179 votes to 146 and calls on the government to decide within 30 days whether to allow Huawei to supply equipment for the country’s 5G networks.

The motion also calls on the government to table a plan within 30 days to deal with growing intimidation by the Chinese regime of Canadians within Canada’s borders. 

The motion says Canada needs to “develop a robust plan, as Australia has done, to combat China’s growing foreign operations here in Canada and its increasing intimidation of Canadians living in Canada, and table it within 30 days of the adoption of this motion.”