Canadian officials say they are seeking consular access to a former diplomat who has been detained in China, amid fears that a second Canadian citizen may also be in Chinese custody.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Wednesday that officials confronted their Chinese counterparts over the disappearance of former diplomat Michael Kovrig this week, the BBC reports. She also told reporters that a second Canadian citizen had made contact because “he was being asked questions by Chinese authorities.”
Freeland added that Canadian officials had not yet been able to reach Kovrig and do not know where he is being held. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with the Chinese authorities,” Freeland said.
That second individual was identified by anonymous officials Thursday as Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor, the Associated Press reports. Spavor is the director of a North Korea cultural exchange NGO, and helped facilitate former basketball player Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea. He is now missing and feared detained as well, according to AP.
Kovrig previously served in the Canadian diplomatic services in China before joining the Brussels-based International Crisis Group in February 2017. He was arrested on Monday “on suspicion of engaging in activities that harm China’s state security,” according to a state media report.
His apprehension raised fears of retaliation for Canada’s recent arrest of Chinese telecoms executive Meng Wanzhou. Meng, the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei and daughter of the telecom behemoth’s founder, was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 on suspicion of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. She was released Tuesday on a C$10m ($7.4 million) bail, but still faces possible extradition to the U.S.
The incident recalled the case of a Canadian Christian couple who were held in 2014 in an effort to block the extradition of Chinese aviation entrepreneur Su Bin, according to the New York Times. In 2014, Su Bin pleaded guilty to attempting to steal U.S. military secrets.
China has demanded Meng’s release, calling the telecom scion’s detention “unreasonable, unconscionable, and vile” and summoning American ambassador Terry Branstad in protest. President Donald Trump told Reuters Tuesday that he “would certainly intervene” in Meng’s case if it helped strike a pending trade deal with China.