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Former Canadian diplomat detained in China following Vancouver arrest of Huawei CFO

Former Canadian diplomat detained in China following Vancouver arrest of Huawei CFO
China has detained a former Canadian diplomat on unknown charges in what appears to be a kind of tit-for-tat retaliation for the arrest of the chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies ten days ago.

Michael Kovrig, a North East Asia senior adviser for the International Crisis Group, has been arrested in China. Canadian authorities confirmed the arrest on Tuesday but were unable to provide further details.

We are aware of the situation of a Canadian detained in China,” said Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. “We have been in direct contact with the Chinese diplomats and representatives.”

While Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale stressed that “there is no explicit indication” of a connection, some officials believe Kovrig’s arrest is revenge for the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on fraud charges earlier this month. “I would be very surprised if there's valid reason for detention,” Conservative MP Erin O’Toole said, while Conservative MP Lisa Raitt expressed concern that Kovrig’s arrest is about “payback.”

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The US State Department, which hopes to extradite Meng to prosecute her on fraud charges related to breaking the country’s sanctions against Iran, weighed in on Kovrig’s arrest. “The United States is concerned by these reports that a Canadian citizen has been detained in China. We’ve urged China to end all forms of arbitrary detention and to respect the protections and freedoms of all individuals under China’s international human rights and consular commitments,” said spokesman Robert Palladino.

Kovrig’s employer, a Brussels-based think tank that focuses on “conflict reduction research,” said it was aware of reports of his detention and was doing “everything possible” to secure additional information about his whereabouts and that it was calling for his “prompt and safe release.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has not commented on Kovrig’s arrest, but Meng’s arrest has sparked fears of retaliation against the Canadian business community in China.

The earlier arrest of Meng also threatened to further inflame the ongoing US-China trade row, but top US economic and trade representatives insisted that talks over a new trade deal would not be derailed by the diplomatic row.

Earlier in December, US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that a planned January hike in US tariffs would be delayed while a trade deal was negotiated. The tariffs would have risen from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Kovrig worked as a diplomat between 2003 and 2016, with stints in Hong Kong, Beijing and elsewhere. The Canadian Embassy in China has not yet commented on Kovrig’s arrest.

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