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Canadian ex-envoy held in China gets consular visit


By Agence France-Presse

A Canadian former diplomat held by China was granted a second consular visit Thursday, as more nations backed Ottawa’s demand that he and a detained compatriot be released.

Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, seen here, is one of three Canadians who have been arrested in China -- Kovrig was working for the International Crisis Group think tank (CRISIGROUP/AFP/File / Julie DAVID DE LOSSY / MANILA BULLETIN)

Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig

“Today, Canadian consular officials in China visited with Michael Kovrig,” said a brief statement from Canada’s foreign ministry.

No details of his condition were provided due to Canadian privacy laws, but officials said they would press for further access to both him and businessman Michael Spavor.

The men were arrested in China last month, accused of activities that “endanger China’s security” — a phrase often used by Beijing when alleging espionage.

Though no link has been officially made, the arrests are thought to be in retaliation for Canada’s December 1 detention on a US request of Meng Wanzhou, a top Chinese business executive accused of violating Iran sanctions.

Ottawa on Thursday also renewed its call — backed by Australia, Britain, France, Germany, the European Union, and the United States — for the Canadians’ immediate release.

And it announced added support from the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

The Kovrig visit came after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the cases with US President Donald Trump, whose administration began trade talks with Beijing this week.

On Monday, Trudeau and Trump in a telephone call denounced the “arbitrary” detentions.

China’s Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye shot back in a letter to a Canadian newspaper on Wednesday accusing Ottawa and its allies of applying a “double standard” in criticizing the detentions of Kovrig and Spavor while defending Meng’s arrest, attributing this to “Western egotism and white supremacy.”

Meng is currently living in a luxury home in Vancouver, her movements tracked by an electronic anklet, after being released on bail pending the outcome of an extradition hearing.

A group of Canadian parliamentarians, meanwhile, complained to Chinese officials this week that Kovrig and Spavor have been denied access to lawyers, and remain in “completely unacceptable” detention conditions.

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