Trudeau accuses China of violating the diplomatic immunity of a trapped Canadian

Michael Kovrig, in an undated picture of the International Crisis Group.
Michael Kovrig, in an undated picture of the International Crisis Group. JULIE DAVID DE LOSSY / AFP

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Beijing on Friday (January 11) of violating the diplomatic immunity of a Canadian, Michael Kovrig. He used a sabbatical leave from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work with a think tank, the International Crisis Group, from Hong Kong. He has been imprisoned for a month in China for suspicion of espionage.

The Chinese authorities arrested him on December 10 in the aftermath of the arrest, at the request of the American judiciary, of Meng Wanzhou, the financial director of Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant.

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Like his compatriot Michael Spavor, a frequent consultant for North Korea who was arrested on December 12, Kovrig is suspected by the Chinese authorities of "Threatening national security", an expression often used by Beijing to qualify suspicions of espionage.

Detention "random and unfair"

"It is unfortunate that China holds two Canadian citizens arbitrarily and unjustlysaid Trudeau at a press conference in Regina, Western Canada. And in one of the files diplomatic immunity is not respected. We are currently in contact with the Chinese authorities and our international partners. "

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According to the Vienna Convention, persons who hold a diplomatic passport enjoy immunity when they are abroad. Mr Trudeau's statement therefore suggests that Mr Kovrig had such a passport with him, albeit on a sabbatical basis, which is possible if allowed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Canadian leader pointed out that Meng Wanzhou had done so "Immediately appeared" before a judge in Vancouver, where she was arrestedst December. "It was open, according to the tradition of transparency of our legal system, and she received a conditional release."December 12, pending his next appearance, early February, before a judge who must decide on the US request for extradition.

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Beijing claims that the arrest of the two Canadians is not related to that of Meng Wanzhou, but many observers see it as a measure of retaliation from China, weakened by the arrest in Canada of the daughter of the founder of Huawei. Washington, in search of extradition, suspects of complicity in fraud to circumvent US sanctions against Iran.

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