Ottawa, June 20 (IANS) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he was “disappointed” with China for charging two Canadians with spying, more than 18 months after they were detained in December 2018, the media reported.
Asked what his government would do to secure the release of Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman, Trudeau told the media on Friday that Canada would continue to work “behind the scenes in very direct and firm ways”, reports CBC News.
“We take very, very seriously the situation of Canadians in difficulty overseas. Over the past years, we’ve had a number of successes in liberating Canadians,” he said at a press conference.
“We will continue to use all of our expertise to return these two Michaels to Canada.”
Asked if he thought the two men were “hostages”, Trudeau said that Canada is “doing everything it can” to secure their release and end their “arbitrary detention”.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was “heartbroken” and “really angry” about China’s decision.
She said the effort to repatriate the men was a “whole of government effort” and Canada will not rest until they’ve been freed.
Kovrig was charged by Beijing on suspicion of spying for state secrets and intelligence, CBC News said in the report.
Spavor was charged in Dandong, a city near the North Korean border, on suspicion of spying for a foreign entity and illegally providing state secrets.
Their arrest came just days after Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei and daughter of the company’s founder, was detained in Vancouver on December 1, 2018, at the request of the US who accuse her of breaking Iranian sanctions.
She is still fighting extradition to the US.
Nine days after Meng’s arrest, the two Canadians were detained.
They were formally arrested in May 2019, after which they had 13-and-a-half months to be charged.
In April 2019, it was reported that both men were being interrogated for between six to eight hours a day, and were sometimes subject to 24-hour artificial lighting, a BBC report said on Friday.
The Chinese government has said that the men were in “good health”.
Canada has called the arrests “arbitrary”, but China denies they were retaliation for Meng’s detention.