(Not) Aiding and Abetting

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A diplomatic row between Canada and China over the detention of two Canadian citizens resurfaced this week after one of the individuals claimed he was arrested for unintentionally passing on intelligence to Ottawa and its allies, the Guardian reported.

This week, Canadian media reported that Michael Spavor is seeking a multi-million-dollar settlement with the Canadian government, saying that he was “unwittingly” providing intelligence on North Korea to fellow Canadian Michael Kovrig. Kovrig then relayed that information to Canada and its Five Eyes intelligence network allies.

In 2018, Chinese authorities arrested the two men on espionage charges, which coincided with the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada in connection with possible violations of trade sanctions on Iran.

Officials alleged Spavor – who lived near the North Korean border and arranged cultural exchanges – supplied intelligence to Kovrig, who had taken leave from his diplomatic role in Canada’s Beijing embassy.

In August 2021, Spavor was sentenced to 11 years for spying, while Kovrig’s verdict remained undisclosed after a secret trial in March. Both men were released in September 2021, following Wanzhou’s deal with US prosecutors, concluding a standoff that lasted more than 1,000 days

At the time, Canada and its allies had accused Beijing of engaging in “hostage diplomacy.” But Spavor’s recent claims prompted Chinese officials to reiterate claims that both men were “suspected of committing crimes endangering China’s national security”.

Even so, the Canadian government denied the allegations, while former diplomats and analysts gave mixed reactions to Spavor’s claims.

The latest dispute adds more tension to the already strained ties between Canada and China, Agence France-Presse noted.

Recent allegations of Beijing trying to intimidate Canadian lawmakers resulted in the expulsion of a Chinese diplomat in May. Canada also launched a public inquiry to investigate claims of Chinese interference in Canadian elections, which Beijing has dismissed as “groundless.”

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