China formally arrests two Canadians on national security grounds

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou back right who is out on bail and remains under partial house arrest leaves her home to attend a court appearance in Vancouver British Columbia. China has formally arre

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Chinese authorities have formally arrested two Canadians detained past year, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, on state secrets charges, China's foreign ministry said on Thursday, in what is likely to further increase tensions between Ottawa and Beijing.

China's Foreign Ministry said Kovrig was arrested on charges of gathering state secrets, and Spavor on charges of stealing secrets for overseas forces.

The formal arrests of the two are widely seen as retaliation for Canada's apprehension of Huawei's CFO Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver airport on 1 December.

Lu said the two were arrested "recently", but did not provide a date, and added that he had no information about where they were being held.

The two men have had regular access to both Canadian consular officials and their lawyers while in detention.

Canada has called on China to grant Schellenberg clemency and release Kovrig and Spavor.

"When Chinese businesses are wrongfully treated, China has the right to take measures to safeguard our legitimate and lawful rights and interests", he said.

"Michael has been unjustly detained and has now been unjustly arrested", the group said in a written statement. They have since languished in China's opaque legal system, allowed sporadic visits by Canadian authorities but denied access to lawyers.

China has repeatedly demanded the release of Meng, who now faces extradition to the U.S, and has reacted angrily to extradition proceedings against her in a Canadian court.

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Putting constraints on Huawei's supply chain could also delay its procurement of components and parts needed to help Chinese telecom operators roll out 5G in China, US brokerage Jefferies wrote in a note, unless Beijing manages to negotiate with Washington to help Huawei get out of "jail".

Michael Kovrig (left) and Michael Spavor have been detained in China since December.

Ms Meng, 47, is the daughter of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's billionaire founder, Ren Zhengfei.

Meng - who is now fighting extradition to the USA - is allowed to live in her Vancouver mansion, although her mobility is limited.

President Donald Trump separately on Wednesday signed an executive order barring United States firms from using telecom equipment made by companies deemed to pose a national security risk. The US has charged her with fraud linked to alleged violation of sanctions on Iran.

Two other Canadians convicted of drug trafficking, meanwhile, have been sentenced to death.

She was ordered to wear an electronic anklet and hand over her passports after being released on bail in mid-December on a C$10 million (S$10.2 million) bond.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Canadians thinking of travelling to China should consult with Global Affairs Canada.

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