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 highly charged and closely watched case.
China last week detained two Canadians — Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat and an adviser with the International Crisis Group (ICG), and businessman Michael Spavor — after Canadian police arrested Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟) on Dec. 1.
Canada arrested Meng at the request of the US, which is engaged in a trade dispute with China. Meng faces extradition to the US to face fraud charges, which each carry a maximum jail sentence of 30 years.
China has given only vague details of why it has detained the two Canadians, saying that they are suspected of engaging in activities that endangered China’s security, and has not drawn a direct link to 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 last Saturday also called for Kovrig’s release.
The sources familiar with Kovrig’s case said that he was taken at about 10pm on Monday last week while on the street in Beijing.
China formally notified the Canadian government of Kovrig’s detention at 4pm on Wednesday last week.
Canada only gained consular access to him at a police station on Friday last week, when he was visited for a half-hour by the Canadian ambassador and two other Canadian diplomats, the sources said.
He is not allowed to apply for bail and not allowed to see a lawyer, one source said, adding that Kovrig is questioned every morning, afternoon and evening, not allowed to turn the lights off at night and is being held at an undisclosed location.
He is also only allowed one consular visit per month and is not allowed to see family or loved ones.
Kovrig is tired and stressed, but physically does not appear mistreated, the source said.
Two other people familiar with the case corroborated the details.
A third person said that Kovrig was being confined to a single room, but despite the stress remains lucid.
The comments were made over the past few days. All the sources requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the situation.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It has said that the lawful rights of both men were being fully protected.
The Chinese Ministry of State Security, which is leading the investigation into Kovrig, has no publicly available contact details.
“Our previous comments on this case stand,” said Adam Austen, a spokesman for Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland.
The Canadian government has repeatedly said that it saw no explicit link between the arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, and the detentions of Kovrig and Spavor.
However, Beijing-based Western diplomats and former Canadian diplomats have said that they believed the detentions were a “tit-for-tat” reprisal by China.
A Canadian court last week granted Meng bail.
If a Canadian judge rules the case against Meng is strong enough, Canada’s justice minister must next decide whether to extradite her to the US. If so, Meng would face US charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions.
China on Thursday said that a third Canadian, a woman, is undergoing “administrative punishment” for working illegally, after Canada’s government confirmed the detention.
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