Group calls for China to release detained former Canadian diplomat

Dec 15 2018, 8:16 am

The International Crisis Group is calling for China to release its Canadian advisor, Michael Kovrig.

Kovrig was detained earlier this week with Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor.

Between 2014 and 2016, Kovrig served as a Canadian diplomat in Beijing. Since February 2017, he has been appointed as the International Crisis Group’s senior expert for North East Asia, based in Hong Kong.

“In neither of these roles has he done or could have done anything to endanger China’s national security,” said the Crisis Group’s CEO, Robert Malley, in a statement.

A ‘perplexing’ arrest

In a series of tweets, Malley confirmed that Kovrig received a consular visit from the Canada’s Ambassador to China, John McCallum.

Malley said he was grateful to Canadian authorities and Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, for their “support and constant engagement.”

He said that Kovrig’s arrest was “perplexing” because he was “entirely transparent” with Chinese authorities.

“His work reflects that of Crisis Group experts worldwide, who engage with policymakers, especially those from countries in which we work, to help parties avert or find solutions to conflicts,” said Malley.

China’s retaliation

According to reports,  Kovrig and Spavor’s arrests were done in retaliation by China over Canada’s role in arresting Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on December 1, while she was transferring flights and is being sought for extradition to the US.

On December 23, CNN reported that Le Yucheng, China’s vice minister of foreign affairs said Meng’s arrest was “lawless, reasonless and ruthless.”

In BC Supreme Court on Tuesday, Meng’s bail was set at $10 million, with $7 million of that to be made in cash. She’s also expected to be back in BC Supreme Court court on February 6, 2019, for further proceedings.

With files from Eric Zimmer. 

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