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Former Canadian diplomat detained in China amid tensions

Detention of Michael Kovrig, who works for an independent think-tank, comes as Beijing voices anger over Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of leading technology company Huawei.

Michael Kovrig, an employee with the International Crisis Group and former Canadian diplomat appears in this photo provided by the International Crisis Group in Brussels, Belgium, December 11, 2018.
Michael Kovrig, an employee with the International Crisis Group and former Canadian diplomat appears in this photo provided by the International Crisis Group in Brussels, Belgium, December 11, 2018. (Reuters)

A former Canadian diplomat has been detained in China, just hours before a top executive at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies Co [HWT.UL] returned to a packed Vancouver courtroom on Tuesday for a bail hearing that has angered Beijing.

Michael Kovrig, the former diplomat, works for the International Crisis Group, an independent conflict resolution think-tank which said it was seeking his prompt and safe release.

It was not immediately clear if the two cases were related, but Canadian analysts had already predicted China would retaliate after the arrest last week of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at the request of US authorities.

Meng, 46, faces US accusations that she misled multinational banks about Huawei’s control of a company operating in Iran, putting the banks at risk of violating US sanctions and incurring severe penalties, court documents said.

The Hong Kong-based Kovrig had served as the political lead for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to that city in 2016.

Canada’s public safety minister said the government is deeply concerned about Kovrig detention.

Minister Ralph Goodale said  the government is sparing no effort to look after the Canadian’s safety.

Goodale said there is no explicit indication at this point that the cases are related and he said Canada is working to determine why he was detained.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou returns to Canadian court for bail.
Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou returns to Canadian court for bail. (Reuters)

Severe consequences

China has threatened severe consequences unless Canada releases Meng immediately. Canadian PM Trudeau says the matter is one for the courts to decide.

China’s Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Public Security did not respond immediately to questions regarding Kovrig’s detention sent via fax.

Tuesday is the third day of bail hearings in a British Columbia court, where a judge will weigh final issues in determining whether Meng should be freed on bail while awaiting extradition proceedings.

Huawei is the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications network equipment and second-biggest maker of smartphones, with revenue of about $92 billion last year. Unlike other big Chinese technology firms, it does much of its business overseas.

Huawei and its lawyers have said the company operates in strict compliance with applicable laws.

‘Repression and retaliation’

Former Canadian Liberal leader Bob Rae said it’s clear why he’s been detained.

“It’s called repression and retaliation,” Rae tweeted.

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.”

Source: TRTWorld and agencies
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