Canada gets consular access to 2 citizens held in China

The last consular contact Canada had with Kovrig (left) and Spavor was in January. (AP pic)

MONTREAL: Canada has had its first contact since January with two of its citizens imprisoned in what Ottawa says is “arbitrary detention” in China, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry announced Saturday.

Canada’s ambassador to China Dominic Barton obtained “virtual consular access” to Michael Spavor on Friday and Michael Kovrig on Saturday, the department said in a statement.

Former diplomat Kovrig and consultant Spavor have been imprisoned in China since Dec 10, 2018.

They were charged with espionage last June.

Their detention is seen by Western governments as retaliation for the arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and daughter of its founder.

Meng was arrested on a US warrant in December 2018 during a stopover in Vancouver.

She is charged with bank fraud related to violations of US sanctions against Iran, and has been fighting extradition ever since.

While lacking direct access to the two detainees, the Canadian ministry says it has continued to provide consular services to Spavor, Kovrig and their families, adding that it cannot provide further information due to privacy concerns.

The department says the last consular access to the two was on Jan 13, 2020 for Spavor and Jan 14 for Kovrig.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he spoke with Donald Trump on Saturday and thanked the US president for Washington’s continued support of efforts to free the two Canadians.

The purpose of consular visits is generally to assess the condition of a detainee, clarify the nature of his detention, provide advice, seek access to medical care if necessary, and serve as a channel of communication between the detainee and his relatives.