Former Canadian diplomat detained in China

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Hong Kong: A former Canadian diplomat has been detained in China and his current empolyer, non-profit organization International Crisis Group (ICG), on Wednesday said it is seeking his immediate release.

The ICG said in a statement that Michael Kovrig, who is ICG’s northeast Asia senior adviser, was detained on Monday night by the Beijing Bureau of Chinese State Security and called for his prompt and safe release, CNN reported.

Kovrig’s reported disappearance came in the wake of Canada detaining Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, on December 1 in Vancouver. Tensions have been high between the countries since then. Meng was granted bail on Tuesday night.

According to the ICG, Chinese authorities had not notified it of Kovrig’s detention and it was unaware of the reasons for his arrest.

Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed the arrest and said that the non-profit for which he works in the country was not registered.

“If ICG said its personnel was conducting activities in China, then according to the Chinese NGO law of 2016, they will be violating Chinese law because they have not registered in China,” said ministry’s spokesman Lu Kang, without giving more details or disclosing whether charges had been pressed against the Canadian.

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau said his officials were in direct contact with the Chinese authorities regarding Kovrig who has been working with the non-profit organisation since February 2017.

US State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said that Washington was concerned about the reports on Kovrig.

“We urge 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,” he said.

Kovrig’s social media accounts were active up till Sunday. According to the ICG’s website, he had been a diplomat before in Beijing and Hong Kong and at the UN in New York. He primarily wrote about China’s role in geopolitics, including the North Korea negotiations and relations with the US.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told journalists in Ottawa that the government was “deeply concerned by the situation”.

The minister said there was currently no “explicit indication” of any link between Meng Wanzhou’s arrest and Kovrig’s reported detention.