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Canadian Michael Kovrig, an adviser with the International Crisis Group, has been detained in China for almost two years. Photo: AP

China urged to release Canadian Michael Kovrig at UN Security Council meeting

  • President of International Crisis Group Robert Malley appeals to Beijing to let Kovrig ‘be reunited with his loved ones and continue his work towards a more peaceful world’
  • German ambassador Christoph Heusgen echoes appeal made at high-level UN Security Council meeting attended by China’s foreign minister
The president of the International Crisis Group used a high-level UN Security Council meeting attended by China’s foreign minister on Tuesday to appeal for the release of the think tank’s northeast Asia expert, Michael Kovrig, who has been held by Beijing for nearly two years as part of a diplomatic dispute with Canada.

Robert Malley told the council at the end of his briefing on security in the Persian Gulf that the Crisis Group strove to be “an impartial conflict resolution organisation” and its staff tried to understand the perspectives of all parties.

“That’s what our colleague Michael Kovrig was doing in his work on China’s foreign policy,” he said.

Malley said it was not the time or place to discuss Kovrig’s case, “but I cannot conclude without appealing to the Chinese authorities, if they are listening, to understand the mission he was pursuing, end his almost two-year detention, allow him at long last to be reunited with his loved ones and continue his work towards a more peaceful world”.

China moves ahead with prosecution of Canadians Kovrig and Spavor on spying charges

The participants at the virtual council meeting were shown on the screen, and when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi heard China mentioned he looked up and paid attention. But he made no mention of Kovrig in his speech to the council.

German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen did, echoing Malley’s appeal “to liberate Michael Kovrig”.

“He is not only a member of the International Crisis Group, but a former colleague of ours, a former diplomat,” Heusgen said.

Britain’s acting ambassador, Jonathan Allen, echoed Heusgen, saying Kovrig’s case “causes us deep concern”.

On October 10, China granted consular access to Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, both Canadians, for the first time since January.

The following day, the Canadian government expressed serious concern at their “arbitrary detention” and called for their immediate release.

China says Kovrig (right) and Michael Spavor are suspected of engaging in activities that endanger national security. Photo: Facebook
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denied on October 12 that the two Canadians had been arbitrarily detained in response to Canada’s arrest of an executive of Chinese technology giant Huawei.
Despite its disavowals of any connection, Beijing has repeatedly tied the detentions to the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder. The United States is seeking her extradition on fraud charges and the case is before Canadian courts.

“What Canada did in the case of Meng Wanzhou was arbitrary detention,” Zhao said.

Bilateral ties have suffered as China has upped its demands that Canada release Meng, who was detained during a stopover in Vancouver in December 2018 and is currently living in one of her mansions in the city while fighting extradition. Kovrig and Spavor were detained days later.