VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There are reports that China has detained a Canadian senior advisor for an international NGO, who was previously a diplomat.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a statement on Tuesday that it is aware of reports that Michael Kovrig has been detained. ICG, which calls itself an “international conflict prevention organization,” said Kovrig has been a full-time expert for the group since February, 2017.
“We are doing everything possible to secure additional information on Michael’s whereabouts as well as his prompt and safe release,” the statement read.
A statement from Global Affairs confirms the detention of a Canadian citizen in Chine, noting they have raised the case directly with Chinese authorities.
“The Canadian government is seized with this case and will continue to speak with the Chinese government. We are providing consular assistance to the family of the Canadian,” read the statement.
News of Kovrig’s detention comes after China warned Canada of consequences for its recent arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at YVR airport, but it is unclear if there’s any link between the two cases.
Meng will be at BC Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday for the third day of her bail hearing.
Meng was detained on Dec. 1 while changing planes in Vancouver. The U.S. wants her extradited. It alleges Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to evade U.S. trade curbs on Iran. If extradited and convicted, Meng could face sentences as long as 30 years.
Conservative Deputy Minister Lisa Raitt called it a troubling situation.
“It’s very concerning that a Canadian citizen has been detained in China, somebody who’s worked there for many years,” Raitt said. “I expect that the minister will be on top of it.”
Meanwhile, Matt DeCourcey, a parliamentary secretary for immigration wouldn’t say if he thinks this is an act of pay-back over the Huawei arrest.
“Well, I wouldn’t be able to comment or suppose anything that the Chinese would talk about. All I could tell you is I’m sure that my colleagues at Global Affairs are dealing with this,” he added.
The two are connected
Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, isn’t surprised to hear reports of Kovrig’s detention.
“It’s, I think, one of the reasons that the British Columbia delegation that was scheduled to go over to discuss trade in China decided not to go,” he said.
“China does not have the same legal system as we do, nor the same form of rule of law. In China, the legal system is very much under control of the political leadership.”
China has warned of retaliation in response to Meng’s arrest.
“That’s your direct link,” Wiseman claimed. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see how one is connected to the other. They’re joined at the hip.”
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Wiseman says if Meng is granted bail, China could impose similar conditions on Kovrig.
He calls it a “frosty” relationship.
“Canada is in the middle. The United States triggered this, and Canada has an extradition treaty with the United States that it respects, just as it expects the United States to respect the other side,” Wiseman said.
“It’s unfortunate that Canada got trapped in this, but it also reveals … the kind of regime you’re dealing with in China. What are the charges against this former Canadian diplomat? We’ll find out.”
A profile on the organization’s website says Kovrig previously worked as a Canadian diplomat in Beijing, Hong Kong and at the United Nations in New York.
– With files from Cormac Mac Sweeney and Martin MacMahon