The federal government says 13 Canadians — 10 more than publicly known — have been detained in China since the arrest of a Huawei executive last month in Vancouver.
Global Affairs Canada said on Thursday that most of the Canadians detained since Dec. 1 are no longer in custody.
“We can confirm that at least eight have been released,” spokesman Guillaume Bérubé said in a statement.
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The 13 includes Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig and Sarah McIver, whose cases were covered by Canadian media outlets.
Spavor and Kovrig — a businessman and an ex-diplomat, respectively — were detained by Chinese authorities on suspicion of endangering national security last month. McIver, a teacher, was detained on a visa matter and subsequently released.
She was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 on behalf of American authorities. Meng is currently out on bail but faces possible extradition to the U.S. over allegations of fraud.
According to a government source, the number of Canadians detained in China has been relatively stable in recent years.
Overall, there are about 200 who have been detained in the country over a variety of allegations. Many are out on bail or probation. Significantly more Canadians — nearly 900 — are in similar circumstances in the U.S.
China has been outspoken about Meng’s arrest, which was described as “basically kidnapping” in state media. On Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang refused to elaborate on the allegations against the Canadians.
“We have said here that these two Canadian citizens are under investigation in accordance with law for engaging in activities that undermine China’s national security,” said Lu. “It is not convenient to disclose more information now.”
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The Canadian government has said Spavor and Kovrig are being detained arbitrarily, and its plea for China to free them was backed by statements of support from the U.S. and other allies.
The U.S. State Department on Thursday renewed its warning for U.S. citizens travelling in China to exercise increased caution due to “arbitrary enforcement of local laws” amid heightened diplomatic tensions over Meng’s arrest.
Canada has not issued a new travel advisory.
With files from the Canadian Press and Reuters