Toronto: A former Canadian diplomat has been detained while visiting Beijing, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
Michael Kovrig was detained Monday night in Beijing during one of his regular visits to the city, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak publicly on the matter.
The detention comes after China warned Canada of consequences for its recent arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver’s airport. It’s unclear if there’s any link between the cases.
The Globe and Mail in Toronto and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. had earlier reported Kovrig’s detention, also citing unnamed sources.
The International Crisis Group said earlier Tuesday it was aware of the reports that its North East Asia senior adviser had been detained. The Hong Kong-based Kovrig had served as the political lead for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to that city in 2016.
The Brussels-based non-governmental organization said in a statement that it was doing everything possible to obtain additional information about Kovrig’s whereabouts and that it will work to ensure his prompt release..
The International Crisis Group said Kovrig has been one of its full-time experts since February 2017.The organization’s website says Kovrig previously worked as a Canadian diplomat in Beijing and Hong Kong and at the United Nations.
Canada’s Global Affairs department didn’t immediately respond with comment.
Former Canadian Liberal leader Bob Rae said it’s clear why he’s been detained.
“It’s called repression and retaliation,” Rae tweeted.
Kovrig wrote on his LinkedIn profile that he had served as the political lead on a visit Trudeau made to Hong Kong in September 2016. He worked in Canada’s consulate-general in Hong Kong at the time.
Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Trudeau, said that Chinese “retaliation against Canadian interests or Canadians would be unacceptable and pointless.”
“It would have zero impact on judicial proceedings in Canada,” Paris tweeted. “Beijing should already know this from previous experience. Let cooler heads prevail.”
Jorge Guajardo, Mexico’s former ambassador to China, said Canada needs to take dramatic action.
“I’d be summoning the entire Canadian consular Corp in China home for training. If that means they can’t issue visas in the meantime, certainly the Chinese would understand. These are special times,” he tweeted.
Hu Xijin, editor in chief of China’s state-run newspaper Global Times, wrote on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo that there isn’t any evidence that Kovrig’s detention was government retaliation for Meng’s arrest, though he added that the current situation was “highly sensitive” because of a “American-Canadian conspiracy” to arrest Meng.
“If people in the rest of the world make this association, it’s because Meng Wanzhou’s arrest was really way over the line. Naturally, people would think that China would take revenge,” Hu said.