Trudeau 'very concerned' that China suspects Canadian of spying

Montreal (AFP) –


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced strong concern Monday after Chinese state media reported that a former Canadian diplomat detained in the country was suspected of spying and stealing state secrets.

"We are obviously very concerned with the position that China has taken," Trudeau told reporters, referring to the case of Michael Kovrig, who was detained in December following the arrest in Canada of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Trudeau reiterated that Canada considers China to have arbitrarily detained both the former diplomat and his compatriot Michael Spavor -- a businessman suspected by China of being a key source of intelligence for Kovrig.

"The safety and security of Canadians is always first order for this government, and that's why we've been engaging and standing up for the two Canadians who've been arbitrarily detained by China from the very beginning," Trudeau said.

Kovrig and Spavor were detained in what observers see as retaliation just days after Canada arrested Meng, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, at the request of the United States.

Chinese authorities had previously said the two Canadian 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, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua said.

The new allegations come three days after Canada launched the extradition process against Meng, angering Beijing, which called the action a "severe political incident."

Meng is due in court in Vancouver on Wednesday to schedule a date for her extradition hearing.