Another Canadian Now Missing in China, Minister Says It’s Businessman Michael Spavor

December 12, 2018 Updated: December 13, 2018

BEIJING—Canada’s Foreign Ministry said it has been unable to contact Canadian businessman Michael Spavor, since he notified the government that he was being questioned by Chinese authorities.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland earlier told reporters that a second Canadian citizen could be in trouble in China.

“We are aware of a Canadian who got in touch with us because he was being asked questions by Chinese authorities,” Freeland told the media on Dec. 12. “We have not been able to make contact with him since he let us know.”

Authorities in China are already holding former diplomat Michael Kovrig who was detained on Dec. 10.

China has reacted angrily to Canada’s arrest on Dec. 1 of Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies and Spavor’s disappearance is likely to further escalate the diplomatic row.

Meng’s arrest was made at Washington’s request. She has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of misleading banks about transactions linked to Iran, putting the banks at risk of violating sanctions.

Foreign ministry spokesman Guillaume Bérubé said in a statement issued in Canada late on Dec. 12 the missing Canadian was Spavor, 43, a businessman who is based in the northern Chinese city of Dandong and who runs cultural exchanges with North Korea.

Michael Spavor was known to have once shared a Long Island Iced Tea with Kim Jong Un on board one of Kim’s private boats in 2013, after they had been jet-skiing in 2013. Spavor has acted as a translator and facilitator for former U.S. National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman on trips to North Korea.

Canadian businessman Michael Spavor
Canadian businessman Michael Spavor with Kim Jong Un in 2013. (Reuters TV)

“He told me about … redeveloping and improving the whole city for the people and … attracting international tourists and businessmen to the area,” Spavor had said at the time. Spavor runs the Paektu Cultural Exchange, which also conducts economic research in North Korea.

The group says on its website it is “dedicated to facilitating sustainable cooperation, cross-cultural exchanges, activities, trade, and investment” with North Korea.

It also says the organization maintains an “array of contacts” within North Korea and is “nonpolitical”.

More recently, Spavor has been trying to facilitate investment in North Korea in anticipation of sanctions being lifted, often hosting both North Korean officials and potential investors at his office in Dadong as well as on trips inside North Korea, Spavor told Reuters in previous interviews.

Spavor was last active on social media on Dec. 10 when he posted on Facebook and Twitter, saying that he would be traveling to Seoul.

Friends of Spavor told Reuters he was due to fly out of Dalian on a Korean Air flight to South Korea at 2:05 p.m. on Dec. 10 but had not arrived.

Both Spavor and Kovrig have been reported by Chinese state media outlets to be detained for investigation on Dec. 10 for allegedly “engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security.”

Canada was working hard to ascertain Spavor’s whereabouts and would continue to raise the issue with the Chinese government, Bérubé said.

Phone calls, messages and emails to Spavor went unanswered on Thursday.

Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.

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