Canadian held in China 'quizzed daily'

BEIJING • A former Canadian diplomat detained in China is being denied legal representation and is not allowed to turn the lights off at night, people familiar with the situation said, offering new details on the closely watched case.

China last week detained two Canadians - former diplomat Michael Kovrig, an adviser with the International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank, and businessman Michael Spavor - after Canadian police arrested Huawei Technologies' chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on Dec 1.

Canada arrested Ms Meng at the request of the United States, which is engaged in a trade war with China. She faces extradition to the US to face fraud charges which carry a maximum sentence of 30 years' jail for each charge.

China has given only vague details of why they have detained the two Canadians, saying they are suspected of engaging in activities that endangered China's security, and has not drawn a direct link to Ms Meng's arrest.

Canada has said the detentions are unacceptable and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said China should free the men. ICG president Robert Malley has also called for Mr Kovrig's release.

The sources familiar with Mr Kovrig's case said he was taken away some time last Monday while on a street in Beijing.

China formally notified the Canadian government of Mr Kovrig's detention two days later.

Canada gained consular access to him at a police station only on Friday last week, when he was visited for half an hour by the Canadian ambassador and two other Canadian diplomats, the sources said.

"He's not allowed to apply for bail and not allowed to see a lawyer," said one source, adding that Mr Kovrig was being held at an undisclosed location, questioned every morning, afternoon and evening and not allowed to turn the lights off at night.


He is also allowed only one consular visit a month and is not permitted to see relatives or loved ones.

"He is physically all right but tired and stressed," the source said. "Physically, he does not appear mistreated." Two others familiar with the case corroborated the details.

A third person said Mr Kovrig was being confined to a single room but, despite the stress, remained lucid.

Under Chinese criminal procedure law, special forms of detention and interrogation can be used for state security suspects.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said yesterday that the details of Mr Kovrig's detention and treatment needed to be checked, and referred specific questions to the "relevant authorities".

The Ministry of State Security, which is leading the investigation into Mr Kovrig, has no publicly available contact details.

"We have already said that China has, in accordance with the law, guaranteed Michael Kovrig's lawful rights and humanitarian treatment," Ms Hua told a daily news briefing.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2018, with the headline 'Canadian held in China 'quizzed daily''. Print Edition | Subscribe