BEIJING - Beijing said Wednesday a detained former Canadian diplomat may have violated Chinese laws if he carried out work in the country because his employer is not legally registered in China.
Michael Kovrig, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, was detained by Chinese state security in Beijing on Monday night, according to ICG.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he had “no information to offer” about the detention.
But he added that ICG was not registered in China.
“If it’s not registered and its employees in China are engaged in activities, it is already in violation” of a Chinese law on foreign nongovernmental organizations, Lu said.
Kovrig was detained nine days after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, at the behest of the United States.
A former Canadian ambassador to Beijing, Guy Saint-Jacques, said Kovrig’s detention is likely related to Canada’s arrest of Meng.
Rob Malley, president of the Brussels-based group, 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.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has said Ottawa was “deeply concerned” by the detention of one of its citizens.
He added that there was no “explicit indication” that the former diplomat’s detention was linked to Meng’s arrest.
The release of Meng prompted an outpouring of support on social media for her and her company, which is based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
Zeng Yuan, a university student in Beijing, was among many who believe the detention of former diplomat Michael Kovrig was related to Meng’s case.
“It is a kind of declaration to the Canadian government,” the finance student said. “This makes sense. China cannot sit and await its fate, and let them make ambiguous accusations against Chinese citizens.”
Meng was detained Dec. 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.
After three days of hearings, a British Columbia justice granted bail Tuesday of 10 million Canadian dollars ($7.5 million) to Meng, but required her to wear an ankle bracelet, surrender her passports, stay in Vancouver and its suburbs and confine herself to one of her two Vancouver homes from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.