OTTAWA — The employer of Michael Kovrig, who was recently detained in China, says the Canadian has not been given access to a lawyer while in custody.
Karim Lebhour, a Washington-based spokesman for the International Crisis Group, says Kovrig’s arrest — for allegedly endangering Chinese security — is unjustified and he should be released immediately.
At the very least, Lebhour says, Kovrig should be allowed to see a lawyer and receive regular consular visits from Canadian officials.
Kovrig served as a diplomat in China until 2016 and had been working for the Crisis Group, a non-governmental agency.
A source familiar with the conditions of Kovrig’s detention says he is questioned three times a day and kept in a room with the lights on continuously.
The source was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation due to the sensitivity of the matter.
A spokesman for Global Affairs Canada said Friday he had nothing new to report on Kovrig’s case.
Kovrig and another Canadian, Michael Spavor, were taken into custody on security grounds just days after Canadian authorities in Vancouver arrested Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive with Chinese firm Huawei Technologies, so she can be extradited to the U.S. to face fraud charges.
Kovrig’s supporters say he was working openly, had met numerous Chinese officials, attended conferences and appeared in the media.
Western analysts say China’s detention of the two Canadians is clearly retaliation for Meng’s arrest.
Spavor is director of the Paektu Cultural Exchange and one of the few people from the West to have met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, has met, at least briefly, with both Kovrig and Spavor.
A third Canadian was also recently detained in China, though her case is said to be unrelated to the other two.
In a statement this week, the directors of several European policy institutions in Berlin expressed “deep concern” about the detained Canadians.
“Developments such as these increase uncertainty and distrust among foreign scholars who regularly conduct research within China, as they fear for their safety,” the statement said. “This will clearly undermine efforts to better understand developments in China and to further constructive relations between China and other countries.”
The bodies include the European Council on Foreign Relations, the Mercator Institute for China Studies and the Global Public Policy Institute.
The Canadian Press