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China's top prosecutor 'certain' two Canadians detained broke the law

Last Updated Jan 3, 2019 at 12:42 pm PST

FILE: Michael Spavor, director of Paektu Cultural Exchange (left) and Michael Kovrig (right) have been arrested in China. (AP/The Canadian Press)

China's lead prosecutor tells reporters he is certain two Canadians detained by that country have violated their laws

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – China is certain that the two Canadians being detained on suspicion of endangering national security, have broken the law.

This is coming from that country’s top prosecutor, and is the latest twist in this tense ongoing international dispute.

In a briefing with reporters, he says he is certain diplomat on leave Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor have violated the country’s laws.

Related article: Canadian Kovrig detained in China has no access to lawyer, his employer says

The prosecutor says the two Canadians are still under investigation and claims due process is being followed, even though they have been held and questioned for more than three weeks without any hearings or any formal charges being laid.

A Chinese government spokesman says it is not “convenient” to discuss the charges against two Canadians detained in China despite an assertion by the country’s top prosecutor that they broke the law.

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang offered that explanation during a press conference in Beijing on Thursday, one of two cryptic Chinese government media events that deepened the mystery surrounding the arrests.

At a regular foreign-ministry briefing, Lu refused to elaborate on the nature of the charges.

Related article: Chinese foreign ministry tells U.S., EU to take Canada to task for Meng arrest

While Canadian and Chinese officials have not made this link, the detentions are widely seen as retaliation for Canada arresting an executive with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, at the request of American authorities who want to press fraud charges.

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland reiterated Canada’s call for the release of the two men.

“We are deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of two Canadians last month and call for their immediate release,” said Adam Austen.

The government has sought the support of key allies in pressuring China to release Kovrig and Spavor. The U.S State Department has called for the release of the two Canadians, while Germany, France, the European Union and Australia have also issued supportive statements.

Kovrig is a Canadian diplomat who was on a leave from Global Affairs Canada and was working in Beijing for the International Crisis Group, an organization that has written critically about China in the past.

Spavor is an entrepreneur who organized tours to North Korea.