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

Stock photo
Pair’s lawsuit dismissed against Fraser Valley soccer association and churches

Judge in Abbotsford calls claims against 14 defendants ‘an abuse of the court’s process’

RBSS students decorate a parking stall at the school as part of the Paint the Parking Lot project. (Facebook)
2021 Robert Bateman grads ‘Paint the Parking Lot’

RBSS students decorate Abbotsford school’s parking lot for a good cause

The Mennonite Heritage Museum on Clearbrook Road in Abbotsford.
Mennonite Historical Society in Abbotsford seeks input for storytelling project

Digital project asks for stories about living during COVID-19’s ‘changing times’

The city is considering easing the requirements for neighbourhoods to get traffic calming devices like raised crosswalks installed on their local roads.
PHOTO: City of Abbotsford agenda package
City may make it easier for Abbotsford residents to get speed humps on local roads

City staff suggests easing criteria for roads to qualify for traffic-calming measures

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Sex offender who viewed underage girls as slaves has prohibitions cut from 20 to 10 years

Appeal court reviewed the case of Kyler Bryan David Williams, 29

Most Read