Beijing detains former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig after Chinese Huawei executive’s arrest

It remains unclear if the detentions have to do with each other but China previously warned of 'consequences' over Meng Wanzhou's arrest

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 11 December 2018 18:46
China comments on Huawei arrest in Canada

A former Canadian diplomat has reportedly been detained in China following the arrest of a top executive for a Chinese telecoms giant in Canada earlier this month.

It was not immediately clear if the cases were related, but Canadian analysts had already predicted China would retaliate after the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, which occurred 1 December at the request of US authorities.

The former diplomat is Michael Kovrig. He works for the International Crisis Group, which said it was seeking his prompt and safe release.

Ms Wanzhou is accused by US officials of misleading multinational banks about Huawei’s control of a company operating in Iran, putting the banks at risk of violating US sanctions which would incur severe penalties, according to court documents.

China had previously threatened severe consequences unless Canada released Ms Wanzhou immediately. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded in a statement that the matter was one for the courts to decide.

Ms Wanzhou — the 46-year-old daughter of Huawei’s founder — was arrested as she was changing planes in Vancouver. In a sworn affidavit, she said she was innocent and would contest the allegations against her at trial if she is surrendered to the United States.

Her arrest has roiled markets over fears it would exacerbate tensions between the United States and China, already at a high over tariffs. The two sides have agreed to trade negotiations that must be concluded by March.

Beijing has demanded the executive’s immediate release and threatened continued “consequences” for Canada. However, both Chinese and US officials appear to be avoiding linking her arrest to the trade dispute.

Canadian officials said they were not immediately able to confirm that Mr Kovrig was in detention, despite two sources telling Reuters the former diplomat had been detained Tuesday morning.

China’s Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Public Security did not respond immediately to questions about Mr Kovrig’s detention.

Huawei is the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications network equipment and second-biggest maker of smartphones, with revenue of about $92 billion last year. Unlike other big Chinese technology firms, it does much of its business overseas.

US officials allege Huawei was trying to use the banks to move money out of Iran. Companies are barred from using the U.S. financial system to funnel goods and services to sanctioned entities.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Huawei and its lawyers have said the company operates in strict compliance with applicable laws, regulations and sanctions of the United States and other parties.

“We will continue to follow the bail hearing tomorrow. We have every confidence that the Canadian and US legal systems will reach a just conclusion,” the company said on Monday.

Reuters contributed to this report

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in