The “two Michaels” affair is once again haunting Ottawa

The diplomatic crisis that poisoned relations between Beijing and Ottawa is erupting again: one of the two Canadians imprisoned in China for almost three years accuses his fellow prisoner of being responsible for his arrest and demands millions from the Canadian government .

In December 2018, Canada arrested telecommunications giant Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou at Washington's request. And a few days later, Canadian Michael Spavor, a businessman, and ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig were arrested in China, a move seen at the time as retaliation.

According to the weekly newspaper, Michael Spavor is now blaming his compatriot Michael Kovrig, to whom he had provided information about North Korea without knowing that it would be passed on to Canada and its intelligence partners, for the imprisonment Globe and mail which relies on anonymous sources.

More than two years after his return to Canada, Michael Spavor is demanding millions of dollars in compensation from the Canadian government.

“These allegations are baseless,” Michael Kovrig told AFP on Monday.

For its part, the Canadian government said that the allegation that one or other of the two Michaels was involved in espionage activities “only perpetuates a false narrative” that China says would explain their detention.

Michael Kovrig “was not a spy,” added the State Department, which did not confirm whether negotiations were underway with Mr. Spavor.

But Beijing said Mr. Spavor's claim “fully underscores Canada's hypocrisy,” according to a statement in Chinese sent to AFP from its embassy in Ottawa on Monday.

“We advise Canada to face the facts and think deeply about its own mistakes, rather than blaming others and continuing to attack, discredit and mislead the public on China,” the embassy added.

Despite the release of Meng Wanzhou and the so-called “two Michaels” in 2021, tensions between the two countries remain, with Beijing criticizing Ottawa in particular for its alignment with Washington's China policy and Canadian authorities suspecting China of interfering in its public relations to interfere in matters.

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Tyrone Hodgson

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