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Canadian held captive by China for the last year a 'pawn in geo-political game,' colleagues say

Last Updated Dec 17, 2019 at 1:12 pm PDT

FILE - 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. Kovrig, a Canadian, disappeared days after Canada detained Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. It's not uncommon for individuals who speak out against the government to disappear in China, but the scope of the "disappeared" has expanded since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013. Not only dissidents and activists, but also high-level officials, Marxists, foreigners and even a movie star _ people who never publicly opposed the ruling Communist Party, have been whisked away by police to unknown destinations. (AP Photo/File)

Co-workers of Canadian Michael Kovrig say he's a pawn in a geo-political game that has nothing to do with him

Kovrig has been detained in China for year, in what's believed to be retribution for the arrest of Meng Wanzhou

Kovrig hasn't had contact with his family since he and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested in China Dec. 10, 2018

NEW YORK CITY (NEWS 1130) – Frustrated co-workers of Michael Kovrig say bringing him home remains their focus now that he’s been locked up in China for one full year.

The North East Asia adviser for the New York-based International Crisis Croup is one of two Canadian men arrested Dec. 10, 2018 – only a few days after the December-first detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver International Airport.

It’s believed both him and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested as retribution because Meng is facing extradition to the United States on charges of violating trade sanctions with Iran.

RELATED: China hints at national security trials for 2 Canadians

Praveen Madhiraju, the general counsel at International Crisis Group, insists Kovrig has done nothing wrong.

“There’s not a day that goes by that we’re not working on Michael’s case. It’s affected everybody very personally because, really, he was doing nothing different than the types of things our staff have been doing in some very tricky spots around the world and it very much could have been any one of use who are in Michael’s position.”

He adds they won’t let the world forget what’s happened to Kovrig.

“And we’ve been working very closely with the family and the Canadian government to affectuate his release. He’s just a casualty of a much larger geo-political game that has nothing to do with him and he’s being treated as a pawn in these games. He needs to be released.”

RELATED: Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Madhiraju also tells NEWS 1130 Chinese authorities are only hurting themselves because Kovrig’s work in Beijing would have helped improve international relations.

“He was researching China’s role in the world and it’s position on various conflicts. What they’ve done is send a chilling effect. They are a growing power. They want to and they need to be engaged with these different communities. His continued detention is just sending the wrong message. This is not in China’s interest.”

He says Kovrig hasn’t had any contact with his family since his arrest and he’s been denied access to lawyers.

His only contact has been monthly visits with people from Canada’s consulate in Beijing.

Justice Minister David Lametti admits he’s worried they haven’t had any access to legal counsel.