Over 100 China scholars, diplomats urge Beijing to free jailed Canadian duo

Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig. (Photo courtesy: BBC)

(TibetanReview.net, Jan23’19) – More than 100 China experts and former envoys to Beijing have called on President Xi Jinping to release two Canadians who have been detained six weeks ago, saying the cases undermined his efforts to build bridges to the rest of the world. China took into custody Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave to work with the International Crisis Group in Hong Kong, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who helped organize tourist trips to North Korea, in what was widely seen as a reprisal against Canada for detaining Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou of Huawei Technologies Co. in December for possible deportation to the USA where she faces charges of violating sanctions against Iran, and employing banking fraud to do so.

The group, including former US Ambassador Gary Locke, ex-Hong Kong Governor Christopher Patten and five former Canadian ambassadors to China, released an open letter to the Chinese leader Jan 22 urging the two men’s freedom, reported Bloomberg Jan 22.

“We who share Kovrig and Spavor’s enthusiasm for building genuine, productive and lasting relationships must now be more cautious about traveling and working in China and engaging our Chinese counterparts,” the letter was quoted as saying. “That will lead to less dialogue and greater distrust, and undermine efforts to manage disagreements and identify common ground.”

China has been evasive when questioned whether the cases were launched in retaliation, saying only that the men were held by the country’s spy agency on suspicion of activities endangering national security.

Canada’s current ambassador to China, John McCallum, was cited as saying last week that the detentions were damaging Beijing’s reputation and risked undermining its interests among the global business community.

The group’s open letter to Xi said Kovrig met regularly and openly with Chinese officials, researchers and scholars as part of his work with Crisis Group while Spavor spent time building relationships between North Korea and countries including China, Canada and the US.

Meanwhile, China warned on Jan 22 that it will take action against the United States and Canada if Washington went ahead with a demand for Meng’s extradition. Ottawa is awaiting a formal extradition request from Washington, which has to be made by next week, following which it will have to take a decision within 30 days.

“China will take action in response to measures taken by the US,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was quoted as saying in a press briefing. “Everyone has to be held responsible for their own actions. Both the US and Canada should be aware of the seriousness of the case and take steps to rectify the mistake.”

She wanted the US to withdraw the request.

Meng’s next court appearance will be on Feb 6, when the date for her extradition will be set. Meng is also the daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei.

According to Stephen Nagy, a Canadian politics and international studies professor at the International Christian University in Tokyo, the legal process for Meng’s extradition could take six months or more to examine the allegations levelled against her, reported scmp.com Jan 22.

On Jan 14 China sentenced to death a Canadian man, who was already serving a 15-year jail sentence for alleged drugs offence, in a new hearing in a perceived tit-for-tat move against Ottawa. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who maintains innocence, was previously sentenced on Nov 20, 2018 after his arrest in 2014 on allegation of being accessory to drug smuggling charges. The new hearing and sentence on an enhanced charge took just one day.


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