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Politics Ambassador to China John McCallum meets with detained Canadian Michael Kovrig

Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, who now works as an analyst for International Crisis Group, was taken into custody in China on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018.

JULIE DAVID DE LOSSY/AFP/Getty Images

Canada’s Ambassador to China John McCallum met with detained Canadian Michael Kovrig on Friday but provided no details on the condition of the former diplomat.

Global Affairs did not provide any information on Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor, who was also detained by Chinese security services in what appears to be a pair of tit-for-tat reprisals for the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou.

China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday that both men are being held on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security" of the country.

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“Canada was granted consular access to Michael Kovrig. Ambassador McCallum met with him in Beijing. Canadian consular officials continue to provide consular services to him and his family and will continue to seek further access to Mr. Kovrig. Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed,” Global Affairs said in a statement. “Canada continues to press for consular access to Michael Spavor.”

Related: Freeland to hold talks with U.S. on Canadians detained in China

Read more: Canadians living in China worried they could be next to be detained: Feeling ‘a tad less proud, and safe, with a Canadian flag on me’

Opinion: China, the U.S. and Canada risk betraying their values in Huawei case

It took four days for China to grant access to Mr. Kovrig, in contrast to Ms. Meng, who was granted immediate consular access when she was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on Dec. 1 on allegations of fraud relating to U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Both men were taken into custody on Monday − days after Beijing warned that Canada could face “serious consequences” over the arrest of Ms. Meng. She was released on $10-million bail on Tuesday after being detained at the request of the United States.

The Global Affairs Department said Canadian officials have raised the case of both men directly with Chinese authorities.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday the arrests of two Canadians by Chinese security services is unacceptable and expressed concerns the power struggle between China and the United States could harm not only Canada but the global economy.

“We are being absolutely clear on standing up for our citizens who have been detained, trying to figure out why, trying to work with China to demonstrate that this not acceptable,” he told CITY-TV in Toronto.

Mr. Trudeau also suggested China’s reprisals against Canada are the result of its trade war with the U.S. and its fight over American efforts to persuade western allies to ban Huawei from 5G technology.

“This is one of the situations you get in when the two largest economies in the world, China and the United States, start picking a fight with each other,” he said. “The escalating trade war between them is going to have all sorts of unintended consequences for Canada, potentially the entire global economy. We’re very worried about that.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan are holding talks with their U.S. counterparts in Washington on Friday that will focus on Beijing’s detention of the two Canadians caught up in an international dispute over Ms. Meng’s arrest.

The meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis had been scheduled before Monday’s arrests of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig, a former diplomat, by Chinese security services.

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Initially, Friday's talks were scheduled to deal with wide-ranging global conflicts such as the war in Yemen and Russian aggression in Ukraine.

But two sources told The Globe and Mail that the focus has now shifted to China’s detention of the two Canadians and Beijing’s anger over the arrest of Ms. Meng.

The sources, who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the Washington meeting's agenda, could not say whether Ms. Freeland would raise Canada's concerns about U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion that he might use Ms. Meng as a bargaining chip in the U.S.-China trade war.

One source said it would depend on the tone of Friday's discussions.

China has strongly protested against Ms. Meng’s arrest to U.S. and Canadian officials and accused both countries of a premeditated attempt to undermine the global aspirations of telecommunications giant Huawei, whose founder is Ms. Meng’s father.

Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig know each other, according to two people familiar with them.

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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.

Mr. Kovrig, who now works as an analyst for International Crisis Group, is on a leave of absence from Canada’s foreign service and is not entitled to diplomatic immunity.

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