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BEIJING has confirmed that it has detained two Canadians, raising the stakes in a three-way dispute over Chinese technology executive Meng Wanzhou facing extradition from Canada to the United States.
Entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig are being held on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China, said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang.
He said the cases were being handled separately by local bureaux of the national intelligence agency in Beijing, where Mr Kovrig was picked up, and the north-eastern city of Dandong, where Mr Spavor lived.
“The legal rights of the two Canadians are being safeguarded,” he insisted.
The two cases ratchet up pressure on Canada, which is holding Huawei Technologies Ltd chief financial officer Ms Meng, after she was arrested on December 1 at Washington’s request.
The US wants her extradition in order to face alleged bank fraud charges.
Ms Meng, who was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver but has been released on bail, is accused by the US of using a Hong Kong shell company to deceive banks and do business with Iran in violation of US unilateral sanctions.
Canada has asked China for extra security at its embassy because of protests and anti-Canadian sentiment and has advised foreign service staff to take precautions.
The US and China have emphasised that trade talks are separate from Ms Meng’s case, though President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would intervene if it would help produce a deal.
“If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made, which is a very important thing, what's good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” he said.
The suggestion that Ms Meng could be a bargaining counter has embarrassed Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bristled at the US president’s assertion.
“Regardless of what goes on in other countries, Canada is, and will always remain, a country of the rule of law,” he said.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland added that it was “quite obvious” that any foreign country requesting extradition should ensure “the process is not politicised.”
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