China confirms formal arrest of two Canadians after months-long detention

China has officially arrested two Canadian citizens who have been detained for months on national security grounds in a case that has exacerbated tensions between Beijing and Ottawa.

The two men – Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a China-based businessman who organized trips to North Korea – were detained last December.

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

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“Canada strongly condemns their arbitrary arrest, as we condemned their arbitrary detention on December 10,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued to Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail.

Initially, the Canadians were accused of activities that “endanger Chinas security” – a phrase that Beijing uses to describe espionage. Later, China announced it suspected Kovrig of spying and stealing state secrets with Spavors help.

They were held days after Canada detained top Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a US extradition request, which sparked assumptions that it was a retaliatory act by Beijing.

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