Freeland demands China release detained Canadians

Freeland demands China release detained Canadians

OTTAWA — 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.”

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.

Canada’s allies backed Freeland on Friday, suggesting a co-ordinated effort.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said 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.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for Kovrig and Spavor to be freed but the State Department repeated the sentiment Friday.

“We share Canada’s commitment to the rule of law as fundamental to all free societies, and we will defend and uphold this principle. We also express our deep concern for the Chinese government’s detention of two Canadians earlier this month and call for their immediate release,” spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement titled “Canada’s Legitimate Arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.”

In yet another 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

Freeland

Just Posted

An incredible closing ceremony capped off the 2019 Canada Winter Games. (File photo by SUSAN JUDGE/2019 Canada Winter Games)
2019 Canada Winter Games Legacy Fund Society hands out $655,000

35 not-for-profit groups across Alberta to get money

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services, says COVID ICU patients have increased by more than 100 per cent in the past month. (Photo by The Government of Alberta)
Record number of people in ICU: says AHS president

The head of Alberta Health Services says hospital staff are treating more… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team announced Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer Rebels acquire goaltender Connor Ungar, forward Liam Keeler in separate trades

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon… Continue reading

Alexander Michael Talbot, 29, was found guilty of operating a vehicle while prohibited, flight from police and vehicle theft in Red Deer provincial court recently. (Advocate file photo)
Man charged following police chases in central Alberta last summer is sentenced

Alexander Michael Talbot sentenced to 22 months in prison

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

Marlene Bird is shown in this undated handout provided by radio station CKBI. A Saskatchewan man who brutally attacked a woman and set her on fire has been denied parole. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CKBI **MANDATORY CREDIT**
Man who attacked, set fire to Indigenous woman in Saskatchewan denied parole

Man who attacked, set fire to Indigenous woman in Saskatchewan denied parole

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police don’t expect gang conflict to subside, say it might escalate

Vancouver police don’t expect gang conflict to subside, say it might escalate

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister Adrian Dix talk about phase two in B.C.'s COVID-19 immunization plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. residents who had AstraZeneca vaccine can choose second-dose vaccine

B.C. residents who had AstraZeneca vaccine can choose second-dose vaccine

This image released by Forest Lake Camp shows campers boating and kayaking on the lake of the camp in Warrensburg, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Forest Lake Camp via AP
Canada’s summer camps hope to reopen as provinces plan to lift restrictions

Canada’s summer camps hope to reopen as provinces plan to lift restrictions

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals tap another military officer to replace Fortin on vaccine campaign

Liberals tap another military officer to replace Fortin on vaccine campaign

Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, Thursday, May 6, 2021 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. The audit, ordered by the Arizona Senate, has the U.S. Department of Justice saying it is concerned about ballot security and potential voter intimidation arising from the unprecedented private recount of the 2020 presidential election results. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool)
Republican Arizona election official says Trump “unhinged”

Republican Arizona election official says Trump “unhinged”

In this June 29, 2020 file photo, the Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Supreme Court to take up major abortion rights challenge

Supreme Court to take up major abortion rights challenge

FILE - In this May 14, 2021, file photo, signs instruct visitors on the proper way to wear masks at the Universal City Walk in Universal City, Calif. California is keeping its rules for wearing facemasks in place until the state more broadly lifts its pandemic restrictions on June 15. State officials said Monday, May 17 that the delay will give people time to prepare, and for the state to make sure that virus cases stay low. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
California will stay masked for another month

California will stay masked for another month

Most Read