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Canadian students urged to study in China despite Kovrig, Spavor arrests

Michael Kovrig (left) and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians detained in China, are shown in these 2018 images taken from video. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP)

OTTAWA — Eight days after Chinese authorities imprisoned Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, a senior Canadian foreign ministry official urged Canadian students to apply for a program to study in China.

Sarah Taylor, the director-general of the north-Asia bureau at Global Affairs Canada, made the pitch for the 45-year-old Canada-China Scholarship Exchange Program during a Dec. 18 event at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa.

The government continues to promote the lucrative exchange program, which has a final application deadline of next Friday, even though it has elevated its travel advisory to China with a warning that Canadians are at “risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, says Taylor’s remarks may have been well-intended but Canada simply can’t continue to conduct business as usual with a country that is holding two of its citizens as hostages.

Adam Austen, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, says Canada continues to call for the release of Kovrig and Spavor after their arbitrary detentions, but that the exchange program provides academic experience for Canadian and Chinese students.

Kovrig and Spavor were detained nine days after the RCMP arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States, which is seeking her extradition on fraud allegations.


The Canadian Press