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China confirms arrest of second Canadian in escalating spat

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Announcement comes two days after Canada released Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou on bail

Image source: YouTube screenshot

Chinese officials announced Thursday that a second Canadian citizen has been arrested and detained by authorities, signaling further escalation of a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

The news comes days after Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was released on bail in Vancouver. She stands accused of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran.

What are the details?

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters at a daily briefing that entrepreneur Michael Spavor was arrested Monday, the same day former diplomat Michael Kovrig was picked up. Both men are being held in Beijing, accused of national security crimes against China.

Kovrig is the North East Asia senior adviser for the International Crisis Group, while Spavor founded Paektu Cultural Exchange, a nonprofit organization that assists in building relationships between North Korea and other nations.

Spavor is best known for coordinating two trips to Pyongyang for former U.S. basketball player Dennis Rodman and serving as translator between Rodman and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. According to the South China Morning Post, Kim is a personal friend of Spavor, who has spent years conducting nonprofit work on the Korean Peninsula.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told the media Wednesday that at one point Spavor had reached out to Canadian officials "because he was being asked questions by Chinese authorities," but she added, "we have not been able to make contact since he raised those concerns."

Anything else?

Meng remains in Vancouver while awaiting whether or not she will be extradited to the U.S. to face bank fraud charges related to her company's involvement with a firm operating in Iran.

President Donald Trump told Reuters Wednesday that he would be willing to intervene in the case against Meng, if it would assist in his trade deal negotiations with China.

Freeland addressed the comments made by President Trump, saying, "Our extradition partners should not seek to politicize the extradition process or use it for ends other than the pursuit of justice."

She referred to Canada as a "rule of law country," and said she had spoken with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Meng's case earlier in the week.

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