A second Canadian citizen who has been questioned by authorities in China is “presently missing”, Canadian officials said Thursday, adding to tensions following the arrest of a top Chinese telecom executive on a US request in Vancouver.
The Canadian foreign ministry identified the second Canadian as Michael Spavor, a China-based business consultant who facilitates trips to North Korea, met with its leader Kim Jong Un and famously arranged some of retired NBA star Dennis Rodman’s visits there.
His disappearance emerged after former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, who works for the International Crisis Group think tank, was detained during a visit to Beijing on Monday.
Kovrig’s arrest was seen by experts as retaliation over Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, at Washington’s request on allegations related to breaking Iran sanctions.
Meng was released on Can$10 million (US$7.5 million) bail by a court in Vancouver on Tuesday pending a US extradition hearing.
Meng’s case has infuriated Beijing and shaken Canada’s relations with China, which is itself embroiled in a trade war with the United States.
“We are aware that a Canadian citizen, Mr. Michael Spavor, is presently missing in China,” Canadian foreign ministry spokesman Guillaume Berube told AFP in an email.
“We have been unable to make contact since he let us know he was being questioned by Chinese authorities,” he said.
Before Spavor’s identity was disclosed, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told a press conference that the Canadian government was “working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised his case with Chinese authorities.”
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to faxed questions.
– Kim and Rodman –
Spavor is based in northeast China, where he runs the Paektu Cultural Exchange programme, an organisation that facilitates sport, cultural, tourism and business trips to North Korea.