Michael Spavor, who runs a cultural exchange organization that helps people travel to North Korea, has been identified as the second Canadian to go missing in China this week.
“We are aware that a Canadian citizen, Mr. Michael Spavor, is presently missing in China,” Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Guillaume Berube told Global News in an emailed statement.
He said Canadian officials were working hard to ascertain Spavor’s whereabouts, and that “we continue to raise this with the Chinese government.”
Spavor is based in the northern Chinese city of Dandong.
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Spavor’s disappearance, which was first reported by the Globe and Mail on Wednesday evening, came two days after Canadian former diplomat Michael Kovrig was detained in Beijing.
It also came amid increasing pressure from China for Canada to release Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. authorities.
She has been accused of violating trade sanctions against Iran.
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Spavor was born in Calgary, Alta., and has spent over two decades living in the Koreas, according to the website of his organization, Paektu Cultural Exchange.
In his capacity running the organization, Spavor helped organize the high-profile visits of former NBA star Dennis Rodman to North Korea, the website says, and he even befriended North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un.
“He has high-level contacts with government ministries and organizations throughout the DPRK,” the website says.
Spavor appeared to have a front-row seat to many high-profile North Korean events. In February, he tweeted this video from a military parade in Pyongyang:
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland revealed earlier Wednesday that a Canadian had gone missing in China shortly after he alerted Canadian officials that he had been questioned by Chinese authorities.
“We are aware of a Canadian who got in touch with us because he was being asked questions by Chinese authorities. We have not been able to make contact since he raised those concerns,” Freeland said.
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Officials speaking to Global News on condition of anonymity said the Canadian man who went missing had contacted Canadian authorities from an airport this week.
It’s not clear from which airport he called or whether he was arriving in China or attempting to leave.
Freeland said the government was in touch with the missing man’s family. She also urged Canadians to “exercise a high degree of caution in China” and to pay attention to directions posted on the Canadian government’s website.
Chinese officials and media have yet to offer any statement on Spavor’s status.
However, Chinese media reported Thursday morning that Kovrig, who works for the International Crisis Group think tank, was arrested on suspicion of engaging in activities that threatened China’s national security.
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Allegations of harming state security could cover a wide range of suspected crimes, and in China are often very vague when first leveled.
Diplomats in China said the apparent involvement of the secretive state security ministry, which engages in domestic counter-espionage work, among other things, suggests the government could be looking at leveling spying accusations.
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— With files from Amanda Connolly and the Canadian Press