Detained Canadian Michael Kovrig clinging to ‘sense of humour,’ boss says

Michael Kovrig, one of the Canadians detained in China, is trying to hang on to his sense of humour as the anniversary of his imprisonment approaches, according to his boss Robert Malley.

Kovrig and fellow Canadian Michael Spavor have been in a Chinese jail since Dec. 10, 2018. 

Malley, the head of the International Crisis Group, says his employee is holding up, basing his assessment on what he’s heard from Canadian officials who have visited him. 

“He’s strong, he’s resilient,” he said in an interview with CBC’s Power & Politics on Friday, adding he has a “sense of humour and a sense of perspective.” 

Malley said one year later, Kovrig is still puzzled as to why he’s detained. 

“He is obviously eager to get out. And, as I said, doesn’t know why he is where he is and doesn’t know at what point the Chinese authorities will let him go free.”

The detention of the two Canadians is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1 of last year.

The chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies was arrested in Vancouver at the request of the United States, which wants her extradited to face fraud charges for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran.

Meng living in Vancouver mansion, Canadians in prison

Meng is out on bail and living in a luxury Vancouver home, as her extradition hearing approaches before a B.C. court.

Malley told the Canadian Press he wishes Meng no ill-will, but that there’s no comparison between how she and Kovrig and Spavor are being treated.

The Canadians have been allowed about one consular visit per month by Canadian diplomats, but they have been denied access to lawyers and all others.

Malley says Kovrig’s approach to the difficult situation is astonishing and impressive. And he says his company hasn’t given up hope for his release.

“Our efforts are twofold. Number one, to get them out as soon as possible, but also for as long as he’s there to improve his conditions of detention which should be very different from those they are today,” Malley told host Vassy Kapelos.