China suspects detained Canadian of spying: state media


Beijing (AFP)

China suspects detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig of spying and stealing state secrets, state media reported Monday, amid tensions between Ottawa and Beijing over the possible extradition of a top Huawei executive.

Another Canadian in detention -- businessman Michael Spavor -- was one of Kovrig's main sources of intelligence, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing Chinese authorities.

The pair were detained in December just days after Canada arrested Chinese telecom giant Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, at the request of the United States.

Chinese authorities had previously said the two men were under investigation on suspicion of endangering national security. Spying charges could expose them to tough prison sentences.

Kovrig, who now works for the International Crisis Group think tank, had often entered China using a non-diplomatic passport and business visas and has been gathering intelligence since 2017, Xinhua said.

The new allegations come days after Canada launched the extradition process against Meng, who faces a court hearing in Vancouver on Wednesday.

The United States wants to put her on trial on fraud charges for alleged Iran sanctions-busting and lying to US banks about it.

Ottawa has said the two Canadian citizens were "arbitrarily" detained and that interrogations of Kovrig breached the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations -- allegations Beijing flatly rejected.