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Trudeau dismisses China report anonymously accusing Kovrig, Spavor of theft

Last Updated Mar 4, 2019 at 11:26 am PDT

FILE - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a media availability in Montreal on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is dismissing reports in China that two imprisoned Canadians tried to steal state secrets from the People’s Republic.

Trudeau says it is unfortunate that China is continuing with the “arbitrary detentions” of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor.

They were arrested in December by Chinese authorities and accused of violating the country’s national security more than a week after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies, at the request of the U.S., which wants to extradite her for fraud.

An anonymously sourced report in China’s state-controlled media said Monday that Kovrig and Spavor worked together to steal state secrets, linking their cases for the first time.

Kovrig and Spavor have been imprisoned without being formally charged, or being granted access to lawyers, and their Canadian consular visits have been limited to approximately one a month — while Meng has been released on bail and is living in a Vancouver mansion.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang was asked Monday at a briefing in Beijing whether that amounted to a double standard but he brushed aside the suggestion.