March 4 (UPI) -- In wide-ranging espionage charges Monday, China accused former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor of stealing state secrets.
The move comes days after Canada said it would proceed to extradite a Huawei executive to the United States to face charges.
Beijing state-run news agency Xinhua quoted Chinese officials saying Kovrig "severely" violated China law by actively spying since 2017. The report said he received some information from Spavor, who works in Dandong, near China's border with North Korea.
Kovrig was working as a senior adviser for International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization, when authorities arrested him Dec. 10 for endangering Chinese national security.
China Peace, the website of the Chinese Communist Party's law and order committee, said the investigation into Korvig had "made major progress." Authorities accused Korvig of "using connections inside China" and obtaining "sensitive Chinese information and intelligence."
"They use this allegation of stealing state secrets as a catch-all," David Mulroney, Canadian ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, told The New York Times. "They can determine that anything is improper. A conversation you had which was okay yesterday, is a state secret today."
Saturday, China's foreign ministry representative Lu Kang said Beijing was dissatisfied with Canada's efforts to extradite Meng Wanzhou to the United States, claiming Canada abused its bilateral extradition treaties and violated her rights.
"This is a serious political event," Lu said. "China once again urges the U.S. side to immediately withdraw its arrest warrant and extradition request targeting Ms. Meng Wanzhou, urges the Canadian side to immediately release Ms. Meng and let her back to China safely."
Meng, daughter of the founder of Chinese tech giant Huawei, was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States on charges of bank fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice and sanctions violations.
The United States has accused Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei, of violating trade sanctions against Iran while the Justice Department has opened an investigation into whether Huawei, which manufactures smartphones and other electronics, sold equipment to Iran and violated sanctions.