By Rob Gillies / Associated Press
TORONTO — Canada’s ambassador to China was given access Sunday to detained Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor six days after he was arrested, the country’s Global Affairs department said.
Ambassador John McCallum also met with ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig on Friday. Both were detained in China last Monday in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive on behalf of the United States.
Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1 on U.S. charges that she misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. Canada gave Huawei chief financial officer Meng — daughter of the telecom giant’s founder — access to Chinese consular staff on the day she was arrested and three days of public hearings before releasing her on bail. Members of Vancouver’s large Chinese community who came to court to show their support cheered her release.
By contrast, the Chinese secretly detained the two Canadians on suspicions of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security of China.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the detention of the Canadian citizens unlawful and said they should be released.
Entrepreneur Spavor is known for his contacts in China with high-ranking North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, with whom he has been photographed shaking hands and laughing. He was instrumental in bringing NBA player Dennis Rodman to Pyongyang in 2013 and has organized a number of tours and projects with the reclusive country since then.
In 2015, Spavor founded Paektu Cultural Exchange, a nongovernmental organization that works to facilitate sports, cultural, tourism and business exchanges with North Korea. Its mission statement says it aims to “promote greater peace, friendship and understanding.”