Canadian Detainee in China Claims Unwitting Use for Intelligence Gathering
Detainee Seeks Compensation
A Sino-Canadian dispute has resurfaced as one of the two Canadians imprisoned by China for nearly three years claims he was unknowingly used for intelligence gathering and is now seeking compensation from the Canadian government.
The detentions of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig from 2018 to 2021 had severely strained diplomatic relations between China and Canada. However, Spavor now blames Kovrig for their incarceration, alleging that he provided information on North Korea, unaware that it would be shared with Canada and its intelligence partners.
According to the Globe and Mail newspaper, Spavor is seeking millions of dollars in compensation from Ottawa for his ordeal.
Kovrig, on the other hand, denies these allegations, calling them unfounded in an interview with AFP. Spavor's lawyer declined to comment, but Canada's foreign ministry referred to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's previous remarks, which also dismissed the espionage charges as baseless.
In response to Spavor's claims, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa issued a statement accusing Canada of hypocrisy. "Canada's hyping up of so-called 'arbitrary detention' by China is purely a thief crying 'stop thief,'" the statement read.
The detentions of Spavor and Kovrig were widely seen as retaliation for Canada's arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive at Huawei and the daughter of its founder, on a U.S. warrant in December 2018. The Chinese embassy's statement further emphasized that Spavor's claim "fully exposes Canada's hypocrisy."
Both Spavor and Kovrig were released in September 2021, and the Canadian government continues to maintain their innocence. In a statement issued on Monday, Ottawa reiterated that perpetuating the notion of their involvement in espionage only supports a false narrative.
Spavor, who lived in China near the North Korean border, played a role in facilitating interactions between foreigners and North Korea. His close connection to the secretive nation made him a target of scrutiny and suspicion.
The ongoing dispute highlights the challenges faced by Canadians caught in the crossfire of geopolitical tensions. As the relationship between China and Canada remains strained, the repercussions continue to be felt by individuals like Spavor and Kovrig, who have endured years of imprisonment and are now seeking justice and compensation.
The Canadian government's response to Spavor's claims and the Chinese embassy's accusation of hypocrisy underscores the complexity of international relations and the need for diplomatic efforts to address these contentious issues. As the two Michaels seek restitution for their ordeal, the outcome of their case may have broader implications for the strained bilateral relations between Canada and China.