The Canadian government has been granted consular access to businessman Michael Spavor, nearly one week after he was arrested in China.
Canada’s ambassador in Beijing, John McCallum, had a meeting on Sunday with Mr. Spavor, who is one of two Canadians detained after Canadian authorities served a U.S. arrest warrant on Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou.
“Today, Canada was granted consular access to Michael Spavor,” said Richard Walker, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs. “Canadian consular officials continue to provide consular services to him and his family and will continue to seek further access to Mr. Spavor.”
Mr. McCallum met on Friday with former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, who now works as an analyst for the International Crisis Group (ICG).
“Canadian consular officials continue to provide consular services to Michael Kovrig and his family and will continue to seek further access to Mr. Kovrig,” Mr. Walker said.
Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor are both being held on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of the country, China’s Foreign Ministry said.
It took four days for China to grant Canadian officials access to Mr. Kovrig, and six days in the case of Mr. Spavor. In contrast, Canada granted China immediate consular access to Ms. Meng.
Gar Pardy, who once served as Ottawa’s director-general of consular affairs, said the key for the Canadian government will be to push for ongoing access to Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor.
“You just have to keep persisting over time so that you become part of the nuisance, as far as Chinese officials are concerned. You keep making sure that every day, there is some representation that is made and you don’t sit back and wait for the Chinese to keep the initiative on this issue,” he said.
Mr. Pardy said it is a good sign that Mr. McCallum was able to have access to the two Canadian detainees within a week.
“It’s extraordinary that we have had consular access this quickly for both of them,” he said. “We have waited months in some cases, depending on the circumstances. The Chinese have been notorious in granting access.”
Beijing took Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig into custody nine days after police arrested Ms. Meng at Vancouver International Airport on U.S. allegations of fraud relating to American sanctions against Iran. .She remains in Vancouver on $10-million bail facing extradition to the United States.
Mr. Kovrig is a Mandarin speaker who first went to China as a diplomat in 2014. He is a well-regarded observer and analyst of security issues in northeast Asia, with a particular interest in North Korea and China. He does not enjoy diplomatic immunity given that he is on leave from Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Spavor lives in China, where he runs Paektu Cultural Exchange. He gained fame for helping arrange a visit to North Korea by former NBA player Dennis Rodman. Mr. Spavor met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on that trip.
China has repeatedly referred to the arrest of Ms. Meng as a “kidnapping” and insists that Canada and the United States are trying to undermine Huawei. Western countries have taken a cautious approach to the telecom giant because of its close relationship with China’s dictatorial government.
On Friday, Chinese Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye warned of more fallout to come, telling an Ottawa audience that a Canada-China free-trade agreement “faces new obstacles due to reasons known to all.”