Michael Kovrig (left) and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians detained in China, are shown in these 2018 images taken from video. Canadian diplomats have been granted consular access to one of two Canadians detained in China. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP)

Canadian students urged to study in China despite Kovrig, Spavor arrests

Two Canadians detained in China nine days after arrest of Huawei executive in Vancouver.

Eight days after Chinese authorities imprisoned Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, a senior Canadian foreign ministry official urged Canadian students to apply for a program to study in China.

Sarah Taylor, the director-general of the north-Asia bureau at Global Affairs Canada, made the pitch for the 45-year-old Canada-China Scholarship Exchange Program during a Dec. 18 event at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa.

READ MORE: China demands US drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

“My department is proud to support the CCSEP and is eager to see a broader representation of Canadians from across the country, at the university and college level,” Taylor said in prepared remarks released under Canada’s access-to-information law.

The government continues to promote the lucrative exchange program, which has a final application deadline of next Friday, even though it has elevated its travel advisory to China with a warning that Canadians are at “risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said Taylor’s remarks might have been well-intended but Canada simply can’t continue to conduct business as usual with China.

“It sends the message to the Chinese that, no matter what we say, we want the relationship to continue as if nothing had happened. I simply can’t see us holding such an event with any other country if they were holding two of our citizens hostage,” said Mulroney, who served as Canadian ambassador to China from 2009 and 2012.

Adam Austen, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said Canada continues to call for the release of Kovrig and Spavor after their arbitrary detentions, but the exchange program is good for relations.

“These exchanges provide international academic experience to both Canadian and Chinese students and researchers — and foster co-operation between our two countries,” he said.

Kovrig and Spavor were detained nine days after the RCMP arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States, which is seeking her extradition on fraud charges.

Nine days later, China detained former diplomat Kovrig and entrepreneur Spavor on allegations that they were endangering the country’s national security. China denies the arrests are retaliation for Meng’s detention.

Kovrig and Spavor have not been formally charged, have been denied access to a lawyer or family members, and are being granted only monthly access by Canadian diplomats. Meng has since been released on bail and is living in a Vancouver mansion.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Wildfire burning outside of Port Alberni

Coastal Fire Centre on scene

Sproat Lake residents oppose large-scale cannabis production in their neighbourhood

Community group calls public meeting for Aug. 21 to discuss implications to ACRD land

Firefighters extinguish brush fire near Port Alberni residential area

Fire off Kitsuksis Creek Trail believed to be human-caused

BCHL: Battle for Bulldogs’ roster spots heats up as main camp begins

Alberni Valley’s new head coach will get his first look at revamped Jr. A hockey team

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Police seek tips in 2015 death of Island teen Brown

Four years has passed since the body of Penelakut Island woman was discovered

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

B.C. log export rules killing us, northwest harvester says

NorthPac Forestry says Skeena Sawmills has plenty of timber

Most Read