Skip to main content

The federal Conservative Party has removed the names and photos of the two Canadians detained in China from a video accompanying a fundraising pitch to supporters following complaints from one of the imprisoned men’s families.

The e-mailed appeal to Conservative supporters – targeting what the party considers Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “blunders abroad” – includes mention of the Liberal government’s failure to secure the release of former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor. It was first sent out last week.

A video enclosed with the e-mail pitch featured Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor as examples of the Liberals’ alleged foreign-policy mistakes.

They are the two Canadians arrested by Beijing shortly after Canada arrested a senior executive of Chinese flagship company Huawei Technologies. They are charged with spying and critics have accused China of “hostage diplomacy."

The list of alleged failures included Mr. Trudeau’s controversial 2018 trip to India, among others.

“And he’s failed to negotiate the release of two Canadians arbitrarily imprisoned in China, who are being held in inhumane conditions,” the video says.

“If you like this video, please consider chipping in today and helping us get this video in front of as many Canadians as possible,” the Conservative fundraising e-mail said. It was distributed as early as last week.

“One of the families requested their son’s photo and name not be used, and of course we’re going to respect that,” Cory Hann, director of communications for the Conservative Party, said. "So after they reached out, we reproduced the video without either of the photos or names.”

A source said the request of the Conservatives came from Mr. Kovrig’s family. The source was granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss this publicly.

The Globe and Mail was not able to immediately reach a member of Mr. Kovrig’s family for comment.

Ontario Liberal MP John McKay said it was “inappropriate and downright stupid” for the Conservatives to include photos of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor in a fundraising pitch.

The Conservative Party’s rewrite of its video pitch to cut the names and photos of the China detainees was first reported by CBC News.

Mr. Hann said while the Conservatives are happy to respect the family’s wishes, they still want to highlight what they see as missteps by the Trudeau government.

“We believe it’s important to bring attention to this issue, and the fact there is still Canadian citizens being held hostage in China, and we remain hopeful the government takes action to get them released.”

As The Globe reported earlier this month, Chinese authorities have confiscated Mr. Kovrig’s reading glasses as Beijing increases political and economic pressure on Canada to allow the detained Huawei executive to return home, according to two sources to whom The Globe granted anonymity so they could speak frankly about the difficulties facing the Canadians.

Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor are now in their seventh month of detention. The two men were moved in early June from solitary confinement to a detention centre, which is more akin to a jail, after being formally charged with stealing state secrets.

But they are still kept in rooms where the lights are on 24 hours a day and they continue to face interrogations. The two men have been prevented from seeing family or lawyers but have been granted monthly, 30-minute consular meetings.