In this image made from a video taken on March 28, 2018, North East Asia senior adviser Michael Kovrig speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. (AP Photo)

Trump’s willingness to intervene in Meng detention roils Canada’s justification

The International Crisis Group said Tuesday, Dec. 11 it’s aware of reports that its North East Asia senior adviser Michael Kovrig has been detained.

Donald Trump’s declaration that he might intervene in charges against a top Chinese corporate executive who was detained in Vancouver is raising new questions about Canada’s role in the growing tensions between two superpowers.

The U.S. president told Reuters in an interview that he could step into the case against Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou if it would help him forge a trade deal with China.

“Whatever’s good for this country, I would do,” Trump said in Tuesday’s interview. “If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what’s good for national security — I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

Trump’s comments will intensify the scrutiny of Canada’s role in the U.S.-China standoff.

Canadian authorities arrested Meng at the request of the U.S., which alleges she tried to bypass American trade sanctions on Iran and lied to U.S. banks about her actions.

Ottawa has repeatedly stated the arrest, which has enraged China, is keeping with international laws on extradition and was a response to a lawful request from U.S. law enforcement.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has stressed that politics, or doing the U.S.’s bidding, had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Read more: B.C. judge grants $10M bail for Huawei executive wanted by U.S.

Read more: Former Canadian diplomat detained in China amid rising tensions: reports

Canada already appears to be paying a price.

This week, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in a move that came days after Beijing warned Ottawa of severe consequences for Meng’s arrest.

China’s Foreign Ministry insisted Wednesday it had no information about Kovrig and declined to confirm his detention.

But ministry spokesman Lu Kang says the International Crisis Group, where Kovrig has been a Hong-Kong-based analyst since February 2017, is not registered in China and alleges its activities in the country are illegal.

“I do not have information to provide you here,” Lu said when asked about Kovrig. “If there is such a thing, please do not worry, it is assured that China’s relevant departments will definitely handle it according to law.”

Because Kovrig’s group is not registered as a non-governmental organization in China, “once its staff become engaged in activities in China, it has already violated the law,” Lu said.

Lu also repeated China’s demand for Meng’s immediate release.

The International Crisis Group said Kovrig was on a regular visit to Beijing when he taken into custody Monday night by the Beijing Bureau of Chinese State Security, which handles intelligence and counterintelligence matters in the Chinese capital.

One of Canada’s former ambassadors to China — and Kovrig’s boss between 2014 and 2016 — said he has little doubt Kovrig’s arrest came in direct response to the Meng case.

“I can tell you that based on my 13 years of experience in China, there are no coincidences… The Chinese government wanted to send us a message,” said Guy Saint-Jacques, who was Canada’s top envoy to China from 2012 to 2016.

Active diplomats can be expelled by a host country fairly easily, but since they are protected by diplomatic immunity, arresting and holding one would be extraordinary, he said.

“In this case, it’s getting as close to that as possible,” Saint-Jacques said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “Clearly, they wanted to catch the attention of everyone in Ottawa.”

Over his career, Kovrig served in diplomatic postings for the Canadian government in Beijing, Hong Kong and the United Nations mission in New York. His LinkedIn profile says he worked as the “political lead” on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to Hong Kong in September 2016.

Trudeau said Tuesday that Ottawa was in direct contact with Chinese diplomats and representatives over Kovrig’s arrest.

“We are engaged on the file, which we take very seriously and we are, of course, providing consular assistance to the family,” Trudeau said.

A Vancouver judge released Meng, 46, on $10-million bail and under strict conditions Tuesday. Meng has denied the allegations through her lawyer in court, promising to fight them if she is extradited.

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

Reporter takes to the skies: Qualicum Beach flight school now up and running

PQB News staffer Cloe Logan tries flying with instructor Mike Andrews

Parksville council members share views on affordable housing

Divergent opinions on responsibility, priorities

Massive early-morning blaze destroys unoccupied Nanoose Bay home

Firefighters from three departments called in to battle fire

Captain Dziadyk to end season with Oceanside Generals on high note

Qualicum Beach player is longest-serving player in team history

UPDATE: Two killed in fiery collision on Highway 1 near Revelstoke

The Trans Canada Highway was closed for four hours

Father, two children killed after car goes over embankment on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

Comox Valley cat rescue organization hit by camera theft

“Someone is taking from an organization trying to help cats who are surviving in the wild.”

Trout ‘doing quite well’ at Kootenay hatchery after otters, who ate 150 fish, relocated

River otters had been pillaging a moat outside the facility for months, gobbling up about 150 trout

VIDEO: Illicit drug overdoses killed 981 in B.C. in 2019, down 38%

Chief coroner says figures were down about a third in the province’s fourth year of the opioid crisis

Trudeau revisits blackface embarrassment during Black History Month

Photos and a video of Trudeau wearing makeup to darken his skin surfaced during last fall’s election campaign

Most Read