Canadian diplomats in China visited for the second time on Thursday one of their former colleagues detained by Chinese security services following the arrest in Canada of a top Chinese telecom executive last month, Ottawa announced.
“Today, Canadian consular officials in China visited with Michael Kovrig,” said Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Guillaume Bérubé in a statement.
Canadian consular officials continue to provide consular services to him and his family, and will continue to seek further access to Kovrig, he said.
No further information can be disclosed due to Canada’s privacy laws, Bérubé added.
Kovrig, who took a leave of absence from Global Affairs Canada to work as the North East Asia analyst for the non-governmental think tank International Crisis Group, and Michael Spavor, a China-based Canadian entrepreneur, were detained separately by Chinese authorities on Dec. 10.
Payback for Huawei executive’s arrest
Their arrest came days after Canadian officials arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of telecom giant Huawei, at the request of U.S. authorities.
Meng, who is also the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, could face extradition to the United States over allegations she was involved in violating sanctions on Iran.
She was released on bail by a Canadian court to await the results of extradition hearings. U.S. authorities have until Jan. 30 to file a formal extradition request, said Canadian justice officials.
Meng’s next court appearance is February 6.
Chinese officials said Kovrig and Spavor are being investigated for “endangering national security.”
“The Canadian government remains deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of these two Canadians since last month and continues to call for their immediate release,” Bérubé said.
The news of the second consular visit with Kovrig came two days after Chinese authorities granted Canadian diplomats a similar visit with Spavor.
“Canadian consular officials continue to provide consular services to Michael Spavor and his family and will continue to seek further access to Mr. Spavor,” Bérubé said.
A welcome sign
Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s former ambassador in China and Kovrig’s former boss, said the fact that Canadian officials were allowed to see both detained Canadians within three weeks from their first consular visit was a good sign that showed that Ottawa’s approach of mobilizing allies to put pressure on Beijing was working.
Canada has received support from governments including Australia, the European Union, France, Germany, Britain and the United States, and, most recently, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia in its diplomatic row with Beijing.
“As far as I know, this is the first time where we see such a show of support by Western countries,” Saint-Jacques said. “I think it’s the right strategy because it brings more international attention to the case of Mr Kovrig and Spavor, and also, hopefully, it will help to reduce the temptation on the part of China to detain other people.”
(click to listen to the full interview with Guy Saint-Jacques)Listen
‘Western egotism and white supremacy’
The Chinese ambassador to Canada on Wednesday accused the country of arrogance and double standards due to “Western egotism and white supremacy” in demanding the immediate release of Kovrig and Spavor.
In an op-ed for Ottawa-based newspaper The Hill Times, ambassador Lu Shaye claimed that Canada and other Western countries were disregarding China’s judicial sovereignty.
“The reason why some people are used to arrogantly adopting double standards is due to Western egotism and white supremacy,” Lu wrote. “What they have been doing is not showing respect for the rule of law, but mocking and trampling the rule of law.”
‘Uninformed and inappropriate’
Saint-Jacques said he found the comments by Lu to be “uninformed and inappropriate.”
“It reflects a lack of understanding of how rule of law operates,” Saint-Jacques said.
Canada was duty-bound by its extradition treaty with the U.S. to arrest Meng, Saint-Jacques said.
“In fact, China itself has been pressing Canada to conclude an extradition treaty,” Saint-Jacques said. “If we were to have an extradition treaty with China, we would to do the same if there were a request (by Chinese authorities) even if the person would have done nothing illegal in Canada, we would be forced by the terms of the treaty to return the person (to face trial in China).”
Canada should continue with its strategy of mobilizing international support and keeping open channels of communication with Beijing to pass on the message that Kovrig’s and Spavor’s detention is damaging the bilateral relationship, Saint-Jacques said.
“But I think also that the federal government has to prepare plans in case there is further pressure that is applied by the Chinese side,” Saint-Jacques said. “I think the only language that China will understand is one of firmness, so we will have to be strong.”