China yesterday confirmed two Canadians are under investigation on suspicion of endangering the country's national security, fuelling tensions after Canada's arrest of a top Chinese telecom executive on a US request.
Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and business consultant Michael Spavor were put under "compulsory measures" on Monday, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, using a term which would usually mean they are in custody.
The two Canadians are "suspected of engaging in activities that threatened China's national security," Lu said at a regular press conference, without explaining if the two cases are related.
Kovrig, who works for the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, was being investigated by the Beijing bureau of state security, while the agency's office in northeast Liaoning province was handling the probe into Spavor, Lu said.
Spavor is a China-based business consultant who facilitates trips to North Korea, met with its leader Kim Jong Un and arranged some of retired NBA star Dennis Rodman's trips to the country.
Their cases will fuel suspicions China is retaliating against 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.
Her case has infuriated Beijing and shaken Canada's relations with China, which is itself embroiled in a trade war with the United States.
Kovrig's employer, ICG, had reported his arrest earlier this week while Canada's government said on Wednesday that it had not heard from Spavor since he was questioned.