Officials visit with Canadian citizens detained in China, cite concern over ‘arbitrary detention’

Click to play video: 'Freeland calls international support from allies ‘encouraging’ over detained Canadians in China'
Freeland calls international support from allies ‘encouraging’ over detained Canadians in China
WATCH: Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was in Davos, Switzerland, on Sunday, where she called the international support Canada has received in advocating for its detained citizens in China "encouraging." – Jan 27, 2019

Canadian consular officials visited with Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on Saturday and continue to pursue greater access to the two detained Canadians for their families.

“The Canadian government remains deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of these two Canadians since December 2018 and continues to call for their immediate release,” Global Affairs said in a statement to Global News.

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Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave, has received two consular visits to date.

The government also visited with Spavor for the third time since he was arrested in China on charges of “endangering Chinese national security.” Kovrig was arrested on similar allegations.

Since their detention late last year, Canada and much of the international community have called for Kovrig and Spavor’s release.

Canada is also pushing for greater consular access to both men.

Several countries and international alliances have rallied behind the detainees, calling for China to release them.

“Canada continues to express its appreciation to those who have spoken in support of these detained Canadians and the rule of law. This includes Australia, the EU, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Spain, Denmark and most recently, NATO,” read the statement.

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This past week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg asked China to treat Spavor and Kovrig “fairly and with due process.”

Their arrests appear to be in retaliation to Canada’s December arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States. Her arrest and potential extradition to the United States to face charges of fraud and conspiracy have angered Chinese officials.

Gary Locke, who served as the U.S. ambassador to China from 2011 to 2014, told the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson in an interview last week that he believes the detention of Spavor and Kovrig to be in retaliation to Meng’s December arrest.

Along with many other ex-diplomats and scholars, Locke signed a letter last week to Chinese President Xi Jinping asking him to release Kovrig and Spavor.

“Clearly, so many of us who signed that letter really felt that this was retaliation,” Locke said.

Another Canadian, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, received a death sentence for a previous drug smuggling conviction, a harsher penalty than the 15 years of imprisonment he’d already been given.

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Countries around the world have begun to ban the use of Huawei equipment, citing security concerns. The company has long been accused of espionage and spying activities on behalf of the Chinese government.

—With files from the Canadian Press, Abigail Bimman and Amanda Connolly 

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