China has confirmed the detention of ex-Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig after denying any knowledge of the case.
Mr Kovrig, who now works for a non-profit organisation, was detained on Monday on suspicion of carrying out activities that harm the Chinese national security, reported BJ News citing sources close to the matter.
He is being investigated by the Beijing State Security Bureau, according to the report.
Earlier today, China’s Foreign Ministry said that it had no information about the former Canadian diplomat detained in Beijing in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a leading Chinese executive.
While declining to confirm the detention of Michael Kovrig, ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the International Crisis Group, where Kovrig is a Hong-Kong-based analyst, was not registered in China and its activities in the country were illegal.
Kovrig was previously a diplomat in China and elsewhere. His current employer said he was taken into custody by the Beijing Bureau of Chinese State Security, which handles intelligence and counterintelligence matters in the Chinese capital, on Monday night during one of his regular visits to Beijing.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed the detention and said Canada is very concerned.
Michael Kovrig, an adviser with the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based non-governmental organisation, speaks during an interview. Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed on Tuesday that Kovrig was arrested Monday night in Beijing
Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou (pictured), 46, was arrested in Vancouver on December 1
While declining to confirm the detention of Michael Kovrig, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang (pictured) said the International Crisis Group, where Kovrig is a Hong-Kong-based analyst, was not registered in China and its activities in the country were illegal
‘I do not have information to provide you here,’ Lu said when asked about Kovrig. ‘If there is such a thing, please do not worry, it is assured that China’s relevant departments will definitely handle it according to law.’
Because Kovrig’s organisation is not registered as a nongovernmental organisation in China, ‘once its staff become engaged in activities in China, it has already violated the law,’ Lu said.
Lu also repeated China’s demand for the immediate release of 46-year-old Meng Wanzhou, a leading executive with Chinese communications equipment maker Huawei, which has strong connections to the Chinese government and military.
‘Our request is very clear, that is, the Canadian side should immediately release the detained Ms. Meng Wanzhou and to protect her legitimate rights and interests,’ Lu said.
Her case has set off a diplomatic furore among the three countries and complicated high-stakes U.S.-China trade talks.
In this courtroom sketch, Meng Wanzhou, back right in green, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, listens during a bail hearing at Supreme Court in Vancouver
Supporters hold signs and Chinese flags outside British Columbia Supreme Court during the third day of a bail hearing for Meng Wanzhou
Meng was detained in Vancouver on December 1 at the request of the U.S., which accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
Meng is the vice chairman of Huawei, the second-largest smartphone creator in the world.
After three days of hearings, she was released on bail of C$10million (US$7.4million) on Tuesday evening – on the condition she surrender her two passports and agree to wear an ankle bracelet. She will have to stay in Vancouver and its suburbs and confine herself to one of her two Vancouver homes from 11pm to 6am.
After the news of the Wanzhou’s release broke, President Trump indicated that the move – which is expected to placate angry Chinese officials – could be part of a broader trade deal with China.
When asked if he would intervene with the Justice Department in her case, Trump told Reuters: ‘Whatever’s good for this country, I would do.
After three days of hearings, Meng was released on bail of US$7.4million on Tuesday evening
‘If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.’
Trump also said the White House has spoken with the Justice Department about the case, as well as Chinese officials.
‘They have not called me yet. They are talking to my people. But they have not called me yet,’ he said when asked if he has spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the case.
Rob Malley, president of the group, said Canadian consular officers had not been given access yet to Kovrig.
Malley said he thinks Kovrig was in Beijing on personal matters at the time of his arrest and was definitely not there for any illegal purpose or for any reason that would undermine Chinese national security.
The Brussels-based NGO said it had not received any information about him since his arrest.