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Foreign policy experts call for release of Canadian in China

Last Updated Mar 11, 2019 at 9:36 am PDT

In this file image made from a video taken on March 28, 2018, Michael Kovrig, an adviser with the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based non-governmental organization, speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. Global Affairs Canada says it met today with one of two Canadians being detained in China. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, File

Fifteen prominent U.S. foreign policy experts on Monday called for the release of a Canadian detained in China in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive in Canada.

The scholars and think-tank executives released a joint statement saying Michael Kovrig’s detention is worrying because independent policy research institutions can help mitigate conflict during a time of growing differences and heightened suspicions between China and the West.

“That is why we are particularly concerned by the detention of one of our colleagues,” the statement said. “Michael’s arrest has a chilling effect on all those who are committed to advance constructive U.S.-China relations.”

Kovrig is an expert on Asia and works International Crisis Group think-tank.

In this image made from video taken on March 2, 2017, Michael Spavor, director of Paektu Cultural Exchange, talks during a Skype interview in Yangi, China. Global Affairs Canada says it has had a second meeting in as many days with Canadians detained in China since December. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP

China arrested Kovrig and another Canadian on Dec. 10, apparently attempting to pressure Canada to release Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Meng was arrested at the request of U.S. authorities who want her extradited to face fraud charges.

The scholars include Nicolas Burns from Harvard, Anne-Marie Slaughter from Princeton and retired U.S. Gen. John Allen from the Brookings Institute, among others.

Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor haven’t had access to a lawyer since being arrested.

A Chinese court also sentenced a Canadian to death in a sudden retrial on allegations of drug trafficking, overturning a 15-year prison term handed down earlier. China is also blocking some imports of canola from Canada in a development that could be related to Meng’s case.

Meng is out on bail, living in one of her Vancouver mansions awaiting extradition proceedings to begin. Her case could take years to be resolved.