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Detained Canadian in China Michael Spavor’s friends raise cash to help him after his release

  • More than half the crowdfunding goal raised in three days as fellow citizens on the mainland face uncertain future
  • Third Canadian held is a teacher whose circumstances differ from previous cases
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 11:16pm

Friends of Michael Spavor – the second Canadian citizen arrested in China – have started an online fundraising campaign to support him on his eventual release, raising more than half their goal of CA$14,000 (US$10,400) since Monday.

Spavor was detained last week for activities that allegedly endangered China’s national security. If deported, he may forfeit his possessions in China, including access to his non-profit organisation, Paektu Cultural Exchange, leaving him unable to continue his work.

According to the campaign, hosted by crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, money raised will help with “any legal, medical or transport bills once he is out”.

The money will be given to Spavor’s brother and may also be used to pay any potential fines in China, as well as to provide start-up capital in support of his new life outside the country.

China confirms second Canadian Michael Spavor under investigation for allegedly endangering national security

Spavor, a businessman based in Dandong, a large Chinese city near the border with North Korea, has spent years promoting tourism and investment in the hermit kingdom.

Andray Abrahamian, a North Korea specialist and Koret Fellow at Stanford University, as well as a friend of Spavor’s, said he was worried the Canadian may never be able to recover his possessions, including his organisation PCE.

“He [probably won’t be] able to run his small non-profit, which focuses on North Korea but requires transit, if not residence, in China,” Abrahamian said.

“He has devoted his life to increasing interactions between North Koreans and other people … [But] if he is unable to transit or spend time in China, his projects will become impossible to run.

“We hope the [fundraising] will give him a bit of a cushion while he figures out what to do next.”

‘We were hoping China would react differently’: past Canadian detainees

About 60 donations have been made since Monday, raising more than CA$8,000. More than 20 of the donations were anonymous.

Canadians in mainland China have expressed concern for their own security, with three of their compatriots now in custody amid rising tensions over the arrest in Canada of Huawei’s finance chief Sabrina Meng Wanzhou on December 1, at the request of the US.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig, a senior adviser on Northeast Asia for International Crisis Group, was detained on December 10.

Albertan Sarah McIver was the third Canadian to be detained in China in recent weeks. Beijing said on Thursday she had been given an “administrative punishment” for working illegally in the country as a teacher.

Canadian Sarah McIver given ‘administrative punishment’ for working illegally in China

McIver was teaching at a school in China when she was detained, according to Canada’s National Post.

She had arrived in the country a few months ago, the newspaper reported, to take up a position at a school but on arrival was informed the job had been given to someone else.

Arrangements were then made to transfer her to a different school in another city. She had been teaching there for a few months when she was detained, apparently because she lacked the proper work visa.

“I am … concerned with where this diplomatic feud will escalate to, the future of relations between the two countries, and what that means for Canadians living in China,” a Canadian working in China said earlier to the Post, following Spavor’s arrest.