TORONTO—The Canadian government says it is aware of the detention of a Canadian citizen in China, and is discussing his case with Chinese authorities.
Michael Kovrig, who at one time served as a diplomat for Canada and helped with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s official trip to Hong Kong in 2016, has been detained by Chinese authorities. The reason for his capture has not yet been made clear.
News of his capture comes as China has warned Canada to release Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou immediately or face “grave consequences.” Meng was granted bail in a Canadian court on Dec. 11.
“The Canadian government is seized with this case and will continue to speak with the Chinese government,” said Guillaume Bérubé, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada. “We are providing consular assistance to the family of the Canadian.”
Speaking to reporters, Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government is “sparing no effort” to ensure Kovrig’s safety.
“We’re obviously worried about whenever a Canadian is put in a situation that puts them at some risk or jeopardy, where’s there’s no apparent or obvious cause or trigger for that,” he said.
Goodale added that the Canadian government is trying to find out more about the case, and also “demonstrate to the Chinese government through our diplomatic offices how seriously we view this matter.”
The United States also expressed concern about the Canadian’s capture, with a State Department representative saying “we’ve urged China to end all forms of arbitrary detention and to respect the protections and freedoms of all individuals under China’s international human rights and consular commitments,” Reuters reported.
Kovrig is currently employed as a senior adviser with the think tank International Crisis Group.
Meng, who was arrested Dec. 1 in Vancouver at the behest of U.S. authorities, is alleged to have lied to U.S. banks about Huawei’s relationship with Skycom, a Hong Kong-based company that reportedly conducted business with Iran. Meng denies the allegations.
In 2014, shortly after Canada acted on an extradition request from the United States to detain Chinese national Su Bin over charges of stealing sensitive military information, Julia and Kevin Garratt, a Canadian couple who lived in China for decades, were suddenly arrested and charged with espionage. Julia was eventually released in 2015, and Kevin in 2016. Su, who was extradited to the United States after his arrest in Canada, pleaded guilty to the offenses he was charged with in 2016.
Huawei, founded by a former officer of China’s People’s Liberation Army, is said to have close ties to Beijing, with intelligence officials in western countries raising concerns about the threat the Chinese telecom giant poses to national security.
Summoning Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, China warned Canada of “grave consequences” on Dec. 8 if Meng is not released immediately.
“The Chinese side strongly urges the Canadian side to immediately release the detainee and effectively protect the person’s legitimate rights and interests. Otherwise, it will definitely have grave consequences, and the Canadian side will have to bear the full responsibility for it,” according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that the decision to carry out the arrest was made “without any political involvement or interference.”
Under Canada’s extradition treaty with the United States, Canada is obligated to carry out requests by the United States for arrests if the requirements of the treaty are met.
“If the conduct that is committed in the United States is an offense in Canada and there are specific terms of imprisonment attached—with Canada and the U.S. it has to be exceeding one-year imprisonment if convicted—then there is no gray area,” said Seth Weinstein, a lawyer and expert in extradition law, in a previous interview with The Epoch Times.
With files from The Canadian Press.