Spavor, a Calgary-born entrepreneur, and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were taken into Chinese custody on Dec. 10 on suspicion of “endangering national security,” according to Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.
Andray Abrahamian, Spavor’s friend, created the GoFundMe page on Dec. 17 out of concern for what might happen after he is released by Chinese authorities. As of Tuesday evening, almost $7,000 of its $14,000 goal has been raised.
“He’ll lose his possessions when he is deported,” Abrahamian said. “His non-profit will be dead.”
Spavor ran an organization that promoted exchanges with North Korea by running hockey tournaments and student study trips, according to the GoFundMe page.
The Canadian has been working in northeast Asia for nearly two decades and has worked with North Korea for over 10 years, according to his organization, Paektu Cultural Exchange.
Abrahamian said the money will go towards getting Spavor back home as well as any medical needs that have arisen — but it also might be used for sending someone to Spavor’s China home to potentially collect his belongings.
“There’s a strong chance he’ll have to leave China with nothing,” Abrahamian said, adding that he probably won’t have much interaction with legal counsel, either.
Abrahamian said Spavor isn’t really a political person.
“He’s an incredibly friendly, outgoing, charming person who’s just interested in connecting people,” he said. “Everyone who is close to the North Korean issues knows Michael. He’s incredibly open and generous with his time.”
It’s a sensitive situation, and Spavor’s friends and family are dealing with mounting worries.
“I hope that he doesn’t suffer any abuse,” Abrahamian said. “I’m sure it’s mentally stressful to be alone.”
– With files from Spencer Gallichan-Lowe