The employer of a Canadian detained in China last month as a part of an apparent diplomatic tit-for-tat is calling on a group of Canadian lawmakers to raise his colleague’s case when they meet with officials in China this week.
Robert Malley, president and chief executive officer of the International Crisis Group, said Canadian parliamentarians need to make it clear to Chinese authorities that the arrest of Michael Kovrig is harming the country’s reputation.
Mr. Kovrig is a former diplomat who now works as an analyst for the non-governmental organization, which works to prevent deadly conflict. He and entrepreneur Michael Spavor were arrested on Dec. 10, days after China promised retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. The Chinese government has accused the two of endangering national security.
“I think it’s important that lawmakers at the highest level raise this case whenever they can with the Chinese authorities,” Mr. Malley said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail on Sunday.
Two senators and four MPs will be in China this week representing the Canada-China Legislative Association on a trip that was scheduled before Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor were arrested. Michael Cooper, a Conservative MP who is part of the delegation, said they will bring up the detentions with their Chinese counterparts.
“I and the other members of the delegation will engage with Chinese officials in as constructive a way as possible, with the obvious objective of seeing these two Canadians returned safely and as soon as possible,” Mr. Cooper said.
Mr. Cooper will be joined by Liberal Senator Joseph Day and Tory Senator Victor Oh, as well as Liberal MPs Geng Tan, Majid Jowhari and Chandra Arya in China. They are travelling to Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and will meet with counterparts from China’s National People’s Congress. Their trip follows one from Chinese officials, who visited Ottawa from Dec. 6-8, after Ms. Meng’s arrest.
“It’s important that China understands that even though this delegation is going, others are not going,” Mr. Malley said, “and over time, still others will decide not to go if they feel that the atmosphere and the environment in China is not safe for this kind of travel.”
Thirteen Canadians have been detained in China since the high-profile arrest of Ms. Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer, on Dec. 1, according to Global Affairs Canada. The 13 people include Mr. Kovrig, Mr. Spavor and Sarah McIver, who was teaching English in China when she was detained, said a government official who was not authorized to discuss individual cases. At least eight of the 13 have been released, including Ms. McIver. Global Affairs has not disclosed the identities of the other 10 Canadians.
Mr. Malley said the International Crisis Group doesn’t understand the allegations made against Mr. Kovrig. He said Mr. Kovrig has been working “completely in the open,” meeting with Chinese authorities and attending conferences at the invitation of organizations in China.
The International Crisis Group has not heard anything directly from Mr. Kovrig since he was detained and does not know where he is being held, Mr. Malley said. Canada’s Ambassador to China, John McCallum, met with Mr. Kovrig on Dec. 14 but the detainee has not been visited by Canadian officials since. Mr. Malley said he expects another consular visit to happen soon.
“This lack of access and basic transparency is extremely frustrating and deeply disappointing,” Mr. Malley said.
Tensions between Canada and China have mounted since Dec. 1, when Ms. Meng was arrested in Vancouver in response to a request from the United States under an extradition treaty.
She is accused of misleading multinational banks about Huawei’s control of a company operating in Iran, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions and incurring penalties, according to court documents.
Ms. Meng is on bail awaiting an extradition hearing, and the Chinese have accused Canadian authorities of “kidnapping” her at the behest of the U.S. government.
With files from the Canadian Press