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Canada Kovrig clings to humour as 'two Michaels' near one year in Chinese prison

16:15  08 december  2019
16:15  08 december  2019 Source:   msn.com

Ex-B.C. politician speaks out about detention in Shanghai airport and Chinese interference concerns

  Ex-B.C. politician speaks out about detention in Shanghai airport and Chinese interference concerns To celebrate their 30 th wedding anniversary, Richard Lee and his wife decided to take a trip to Shanghai in November 2015. They made it as far as the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. There, the longtime Chinese-Canadian politician says, Chinese officials separated him from his wife and confiscated his two phones, including his government-issued BlackBerry. After several hours, his visa was cancelled and he and his wife were barred from entering the country. “I asked if I could go to Hong Kong instead. They said, no, I have to go back where you came from,” Lee recalls. Neither Lee nor his Liberal colleagues in the B.C.

On December 18 last year , Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested on charges of ‘endangering state security.’ If you were creating a list of imagined horrors, it would be difficult to come up with something more frightening than a year in a Chinese prison cell.

Michael Kovrig , left, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur with high-level contacts in North Korea, are Canadians who have been detained in BEIJING — The Chinese authorities announced sweeping espionage accusations against two Canadians — a former diplomat and a

Michael Kovrig, an employee with the International Crisis Group and former Canadian diplomat appears in this photo provided by the International Crisis Group in Brussels, Belgium, December 11, 2018.    ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.  NO ARCHIVES/NO RESALES© Thomson Reuters Michael Kovrig, an employee with the International Crisis Group and former Canadian diplomat appears in this photo provided by the International Crisis Group in Brussels, Belgium, December 11, 2018. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO ARCHIVES/NO RESALES

OTTAWA — Canadian prisoner Michael Kovrig is trying to hold on to a sense of humour as he and fellow countryman Michael Spavor approach one year in solitary confinement in China, says Kovrig's current boss.

Kovrig, a diplomat on leave who was working with the International Crisis Group, and Spavor, an entrepreneur, have been imprisoned in China since Dec. 10, 2018. Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada's arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1, 2018.

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  Huawei's Meng Wanzhou reflects on anniversary of arrest in blog post The 47-year-old technology company executive says she has time to read books and be thankful as American prosecutors try to extradite her to the U.S. to face fraud charges.On the anniversary of her arrest at Vancouver International Airport she reflected on her year in Canada in a blog post published on Huawei.com with the title: Your warmth is a beacon that lights my way forward.

Two Canadians detained in China after the arrest of a Chinese Huawei executive in Canada are marking one year in detention, with supporters accusing Beijing of using them as diplomatic hostages. Michael Kovrig was working for the International Crisis Group when he was detained.

The Chinese police detained the two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, last month as officials in Beijing scrambled to press Canada to free Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese technology executive, arrested in Vancouver on Dec.

Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, was arrested at the request of the United States, which wants her extradited to face fraud charges for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran.

The incident triggered a diplomatic meltdown between Canada and China, that has also led to the People's Republic banning some Canadian agricultural products, including canola.

Meng is out on bail and living in a luxury Vancouver home, as her extradition hearing remains before a British Columbia court.

On the one-year anniversary of her arrest, Huawei posted a message from Meng in which she described feeling tormented and helpless, amid long periods of reading novels and oil painting, while watching the dense forests outside her window change to crimson.

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The Chinese government has detained two prominent foreigners in recent days: Michael Kovrig , a former Canadian diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a Canadian writer and entrepreneur. Mr. Garratt spent two years in prison before his eventual release. Both have denied the accusations.

The arrest of Michael Kovrig came on the third day of a bail hearing for Chinese businessperson Meng Wanzhou READ MORE: Kevin Garratt back in Canada after 2 years in Chinese prison . Burton said that he believes China will prosecute Kovrig as a spy, without stating specific allegations, and

Robert Malley, the president of the Washington-based Crisis Group, said he wishes Meng no ill-will but that there's no comparison between how she and Kovrig and Spavor are being treated.

Kovrig and Spavor have been allowed approximately one consular visit per month by Canadian diplomats. But they have been denied access to lawyers, and all others.

Malley said he hopes Kovrig can at least receive a bit better treatment from their Chinese jailers. And he said that wish extends to Spavor, who has no connection to his organization. The Crisis Group has focused exclusively on the case of Kovrig, who was a specialist on China for the think-tank, and had conducted high-level interviews with Chinese officials over numerous visits.

"I don't think anyone is expecting they will improve to the point that Ms. Meng is experiencing," he said. "That would probably be an unrealistic expectation. But at least that he be treated fairly and that he have access to family members, to lawyers, to others and that he could live a little bit more normally than he is today."

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  Huawei Canada exec insists CFO Meng Wanzhou is victim of ‘politicization’ Two Canadians have been detained in China for one year in apparent retaliation for Meng's arrest.In an interview with The West Block's Mercedes Stephenson, the executive and former director of issues management for Stephen Harper's government insisted Huawei Canada respects Canadian laws but did not answer when asked whether the branch would call for the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

Michael Kovrig was detained less than a week after Canada announced the arrest of a senior Chinese tech executive, Meng Wanzhou. Both requested that their names not be used, fearing unwelcome attention from the Chinese authorities. Calls to Mr. Kovrig ’s two cellphone numbers went unanswered.

Businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig , have been languishing in China 's opaque legal Two Canadians who disappeared into China 's state security apparatus in what was widely seen as retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese telecom executive remain secluded in detention

Malley said Kovrig is showing uncommon resilience as he lives in isolation, deprived of contact from his loved ones.

"All of that, obviously, would be taxing on anyone. I do have to say that the way Michael is reacting is nothing short of extraordinary. Maintaining his sense of humour, his sense of perspective, his desire to remain interested in things that are going on around the world."

Malley offered no other details.

China accuses the two men of spying, while the Canadian government has branded their detentions as arbitrary. There appears to be little movement in the stalemate. China's new ambassador recently held firm to his country's hardline position, saying the tension between the two countries could be easily dealt with if Canada simply released Meng.

Malley, who previously served on former U.S. President Barack Obama's national security council, said Kovrig's fate is wrapped up in events outside his and Canada's control.

China and the Trump administration are embroiled in an acrimonious trade negotiation and the U.S. has also banned Huawei from supplying the equipment for its next generation 5G wireless network. The U.S. views the technology as an extension of Chinese military intelligence — an allegation the company denies as baseless.

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The Chinese government has built a vast network of re-education camps and a pervasive system of surveillance to monitor and subdue millions from Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region. Now China is also turning to an older, harsher method of control: filling prisons in Xinjiang.

Image caption Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig have been put under "compulsory measures". A second Canadian has been detained in China on accusations of It was confirmed on Thursday that Michael Spavor, a businessman, had been detained in addition to former diplomat Michael Kovrig .

Canada hasn't decided whether to allow Huawei to be its 5G supplier, but it is under pressure from the U.S. to block the company. Doing so could anger China even further.

Malley said he always viewed Kovrig winning his freedom as "a function of other factors — the relationship between Canada and the U.S. and China — and that is something that is not under our control."

"Did I think a year ago, Michael would still be behind bars? Probably not. Again, it's something that is so much in the hands of the Chinese authorities based on their assessment of how best they assess the relationship with the United States in particular, and the question of Huawei and their CFO."

On Friday, Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O'Toole accused the Trudeau government of achieving "zero progress" on winning the release of Kovrig and Spavor as their one-year anniversary approached.

Asked to assess the government's efforts, Malley replied:

"They have tried everything they can to get him out. I can't ask for more."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2019.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Parliament passes Conservative motion to create committee on Canada-China relations .
Members of Parliament voted 171 to 148 in favour of a creating a special committee to re-evaluate virtually all aspects of Canada's relationship with China,Members of Parliament voted 171 to 148 in favour of a creating a special committee to re-evaluate virtually all aspects of Canada's relationship with China.

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