US academics call on Beijing to immediately release Canadian Michael Kovrig, saying his arrest has ‘chilling effect’ on US-China relations
- Group issues joint statement saying his arrest ‘has a chilling effect on all those who are committed to advance constructive US-China relations’
Kovrig, a senior adviser for non-governmental organisation International Crisis Group (ICG), and another Canadian, businessman Michael Spavor, were taken into custody by Chinese authorities in early December.
Their detentions followed the arrest of Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms firm Huawei Technologies, in Canada at the request of the US for allegedly breaching US sanctions on Iran.
The statement also came after Huawei filed a lawsuit against the US government in Texas for banning federal agencies from buying the company’s equipment, while officials from the US and China were busy trying to hammer out a trade deal after rounds of failed negotiations.
“At this moment of testing for the bilateral relationship – defined by growing differences and suspicions between our governments – we believe these efforts and the partnerships we’ve built with counterparts in China over many years are more important than ever,” the joint statement said.
“Michael [Kovrig’s] arrest has a chilling effect on all those who are committed to advance constructive US-China relations. We urge China to release Michael so that he can return to his family.”
Among those who signed the statement were John Allen, president of the Brookings Institution, William Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Josette Sheeran, president of the Asia Society, and Orville Schell, a veteran China watcher.
In the statement, they stressed that the US-China relationship would remain the foremost diplomatic challenge for many years to come and that independent policy research could play an “affirmative” role in shaping major policy debates, providing analysis from different perspectives, and offering innovative ideas to mitigate conflicts.
“We are extremely grateful and heartened by the support shown by the prominent signatories from the research community and by the fact that they have come together as one on this issue,” said Robert Malley, president of the ICG and one of the signatories.
“Many members of that community wish to constructively engage with China. Michael’s arbitrary detention can only scare them away,” he said.