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China accuses held Canadians of spying



China has accused two Canadians of spying, as tensions between the nations grow over the possible extradition of a Huawei executive to the US.

Michael
Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman, were detained in
December after Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on suspicion of fraud and
breaching sanctions on Iran.

Ms Meng is
suing Canada over her arrest, which was made at the request of the US.


China has
condemned Ms Meng’s arrest.

The
diplomatic spat has hurt Canada-China relations, and the arrest of the two
Canadians had been seen as Beijing’s retaliation for its detention of Ms Meng.

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Canada
officially launched her extradition process on Friday but the legal process can
be lengthy and remains in its early stages.

They were set
out for the first time on Monday.

Mr
Kovrig, who now works for Brussels-based think tank the International Crisis
Group (ICG), “is suspected of spying and stealing national secrets for
foreign agents”, Chinese state media reported, citing
authorities.

It said that
Mr Spavor “had provided intelligence to Mr Kovrig and was an important
intelligence contact of [his]”.

Mr Kovrig had
entered China frequently since 2017 with “a regular passport and a
business visa”, the authorities said.

Until now
China had not provided detailed allegations against the pair, only saying that
they were suspected of hurting China’s security.

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The ICG told
the BBC that the group was aware of Monday’s reports but had “heard
nothing official about any charges being laid against our colleague, Michael
Kovrig”.

“Michael’s
work for Crisis Group has been entirely transparent and in the open as all who
follow his work can attest. Vague and unsubstantiated accusations against him
are unwarranted and unfair,” a spokesperson said.

The think
tank has previously said his work involved meeting officials, academics and
analysts and attending conferences.

Mr Spavor
lives in the Chinese city of Dandong, which borders North Korea. He has close
ties to the North Korean regime and brings foreign investors there on tours.

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Canadian
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for the release of both men.

Ms Meng, 47,
will next appear in court on Wednesday, when it will be confirmed that Canada
has issued a legal writ over her extradition to the US. A date for an
extradition hearing will be set. -BBC

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