Law­mak­ers head to China to push for re­lease of Cana­dian de­tainees

Mem­bers of the Canada-china Leg­isla­tive As­so­ci­a­tion will be ar­riv­ing on Satur­day

StarMetro Vancouver - - CANADA & WORLD - Mike Blanch­field

OT­TAWA—A group of Cana­dian law­mak­ers trav­el­ling to China this week­end will use the trip to push for the re­lease of two Cana­di­ans de­tained there since last month, says a Con­ser­va­tive MP in the del­e­ga­tion.

That is some­thing all Cana­dian trav­ellers to China ought to be do­ing, says the boss of one of the im­pris­oned Cana­di­ans.

Michael Kovrig, a diplo­mat on a leave from Global Af­fairs Canada and em­ployed in Bei­jing by the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group, and the en­tre­pre­neur Michael Spa­vor were ar­rested last month in China. The ar­rests are widely viewed as Chi­nese re­tal­i­a­tion for Canada’s ar­rest of high-tech ex­ec­u­tive Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, by the RCMP in Van­cou­ver at the re­quest of the United States.

“Peo­ple who do go to China, I’m hop­ing they will raise this with their in­ter­locu­tors to make clear that it is hurt­ing China’s im­age in the world, and it’s go­ing to make it harder for some peo­ple who want to travel to China,” Robert Mal­ley, the Cri­sis Group’s pres­i­dent and a for­mer mem­ber of the U.S. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil un­der pres­i­dent Barack Obama, said in an in­ter­view Thurs­day.

That’s ex­actly what the mem­bers of the Canada-china Leg­isla­tive As­so­ci­a­tion say they will do when they ar­rive in China on Satur­day, said Con­ser­va­tive MP Michael Cooper.

“I and the other mem­bers of the del­e­ga­tion will en­gage with Chi­nese of­fi­cials in as con­struc­tive way as pos­si­ble, with the ob­vi­ous ob­jec­tive of see­ing these two Cana­di­ans re­turned safely and as soon as pos­si­ble,” Cooper said.

The Ed­mon­ton-area MP is join­ing three Lib­eral MPS, a Lib­eral sen­a­tor and Con­ser­va­tive sen­a­tor on the pre­vi­ously sched­uled trip that is be­ing funded by Cana­dian tax­pay­ers.

Cooper ac­knowl­edged there was dis­cus­sion about whether the trip would go ahead given the cur­rent ten­sions, un­til the leader of the del­e­ga­tion, Lib­eral Sen. Joseph Day, was briefed by the Cana­dian for­eign min­istry.

“The mes­sage from Global Af­fairs Canada ... was that it would be bet­ter for us to go rather than to can­cel,” said Cooper. “Quite frankly, if there were safety is­sues or if it was deemed to not be ben­e­fi­cial, then we wouldn’t be go­ing.”

The U.S. State De­part­ment up­dated its travel ad­vi­sory on China on Thurs­day, urg­ing Amer­i­can trav­ellers to ex­er­cise “in­creased cau­tion” while in China.

China’s re­sponse at thes­


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