Arrest of former Canadian diplomat suggests China 'doesn't respect the rule of law,' says former ambassador

A former ambassador says that the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in China is latest in string of crises that suggest China "evades its responsibilities."

Michael Kovrig's detention is latest in string of crises, says David Mulroney

Michael Kovrig's detention in China comes against the backdrop of the arrest and extradition case of Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. (International Crisis Group)
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The detention of a former Canadian diplomat in China is the latest in a string of crises that suggests the country "doesn't respect the rule of law," according to a former ambassador.

Michael Kovrig was detained in Beijing on Monday night, according to his employer International Crisis Group.

What's happening to him "has happened to a succession of other people," including missionaries, teachers, investigators and human rights workers, said David Mulroney, who was Canada's ambassador to China from 2009-2012.

"When each of these crises erupts, everyone wrings their hands, and China gets a pass," he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"At some point, China has to stop getting a pass."

Former Canadian Ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques tells Power & Politics that he sees a connection between the Chinese detainment of Michael Kovrig and the Canadian arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. 8:17

The Canadian government said Tuesday that it was in contact with Kovrig's family and Chinese officials. But on Wednesday China's Foreign Ministry declined to confirm Kovrig's arrest, instead telling The Associated Press that International Crisis Group was not registered in China, and therefore its activities in the country were illegal.

Kovrig's detention comes against the backdrop of the arrest and extradition case of Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, for allegedly evading U.S. trade curbs on Iran. Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, was released on bail Tuesday after a three-day hearing.

To discuss the arrest and the political fallout, Tremonti spoke to:

  • David Mulroney, former ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, and now a senior fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs
  • Guy St.Jacques, former ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016.
  • Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Produced by Samira Mohyeddin, Imogen Birchard and Danielle Carr

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