Freeland demands China release detained Canadians

Western analysts say China’s detention of the two Canadians is clearly retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

After more than a week of expressing worsening upset about China’s arrests of two Canadians, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Friday formally demanded that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor be let go.

“We are deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of two Canadians earlier this month and call for their immediate release,” Freeland said in a written statement.

Kovrig and Spavor were taken into custody on security grounds just days after Canadian authorities in Vancouver arrested Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive with Chinese firm Huawei Technologies, so she can be extradited to the U.S. to face fraud charges.

The United States alleges Meng lied to American banks about a corporate manoeuvre supposedly designed to get around U.S. sanctions against Iran; law-enforcement officials asked Canada to arrest her when she transited through Vancouver on her way to Mexico.

She has since been released on $10 million bail.

Western analysts say China’s detention of the two Canadians is clearly retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

“Canada is a country governed by the rule of law,” Freeland said. “Canada is conducting a fair, unbiased and transparent legal proceeding with respect to Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer. Canada respects its international commitments, including by honouring its extradition treaty with the United States. The rule of law is fundamental to all free societies; we will defend and uphold this principle.”

Read more: China calls US arrogant and selfish after hacking indictment

Read more: A timeline of the cases of Meng Wanzhou and the Canadians detained in China

Kovrig’s employer says the Canadian has not been given access to a lawyer while in custody.

Karim Lebhour, a Washington-based spokesman for the International Crisis Group, says Kovrig’s arrest — for allegedly endangering Chinese security — is unjustified and he should be released immediately.

At the very least, Lebhour says, Kovrig should be allowed to see a lawyer and receive regular consular visits from Canadian officials.

Kovrig served as a diplomat in China until 2016 and had been working for the Crisis Group, a non-governmental agency.

A source familiar with the conditions of Kovrig’s detention says he is questioned three times a day and kept in a room with the lights on continuously.

The source was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Kovrig’s supporters say he was working openly, had met numerous Chinese officials, attended conferences and appeared in the media.

Spavor is director of the Paektu Cultural Exchange and one of the few people from the West to have met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, has met, at least briefly, with both Kovrig and Spavor.

A third Canadian was also recently detained in China, though her case is said to be unrelated to the other two.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Friday that he’s “deeply concerned by suggestions of a political motivation for the detention of two Canadian citizens by the Chinese government. I call for them to be treated in a fair, unbiased and transparent manner.”

In a statement this week, the directors of several European policy institutions in Berlin expressed ”deep concern” about the detained Canadians.

“Developments such as these increase uncertainty and distrust among foreign scholars who regularly conduct research within China, as they fear for their safety,” the statement said. “This will clearly undermine efforts to better understand developments in China and to further constructive relations between China and other countries.”

The bodies include the European Council on Foreign Relations, the Mercator Institute for China Studies and the Global Public Policy Institute.

“I wish to express Canada’s appreciation to those who have spoken recently in support of the rule of law as fundamental to free societies,” Freeland’s statement concluded. “We share with our partners the conviction that the rule of law is not a choice: it is the bedrock of democracy. Canada will not compromise nor politicize the rule of law and due process.”

David Reevely and Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Occupancy rates remain above capacity in Greater Victoria hospitals

Region’s hospitals have more patients than acute care beds

Saanich mayor signs up for mason bee rental service

Fred Haynes rents mason bee colony from Oyster River beekeeper for his Prospect Lake home

Music coffee house returns to Metchosin with new name

Java Jive Coffee House takes place on Jan. 25 from 7 to 9 p.m.

VIDEO: Rare ‘ice circle’ spotted on Kamloops river

An ice circle or ice pan, has formed in the chilly waters just east of the Yellowhead Bridge

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Uber, Lyft approved for ride-hailing in Lower Mainland

Kater Technologies Inc.’s application was rejected

Investigators in wildfire-torn Australia head to site of B.C. airtanker crash

The B.C. government sends condolences to Port Alberni-owned Coulson Aviation

Here’s what Canada is doing to stop the coronavirus from getting in

Health officials are monitoring multiple possible cases in Canada

B.C. still struggling to control non-resident medical care fraud

Unpaid bills, out-of-province claimants a costly legacy of MSP

VIDEO: Person in wheelchair narrowly avoids collision with car in Kelowna

There were no injuries in the scary looking near-accident last week in Rutland

Former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse in B.C. granted day parole

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s

Most Read