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Media Release

Crisis Group calls for immediate release of Michael Kovrig

Please click here for a Chinese translation of this media release.

The International Crisis Group adds its voice to that of the Canadian government in calling for the immediate release of Michael Kovrig, our North East Asia Adviser.

“We appreciate that the Chinese authorities have provided consular access to Michael and allowed the Canadian Ambassador to visit him," said Crisis Group’s President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Malley. “Michael’s arrest is unjust. He should be freed immediately.”

Although Michael has yet to be formally charged, statements from its officials suggest he is being investigated for endangering China’s national security.

Michael has held two positions during his time in China. Between 2014 and 2016, he served as a Canadian diplomat in Beijing. Since February 2017, he has been Crisis Group’s senior expert for North East Asia, based in Hong Kong. In neither of these roles has he done or could have done anything to endanger China’s national security. As a Canadian diplomat, he fulfilled regular diplomatic responsibilities, including serving as a political leader for a visit to Hong Kong in 2016 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He completed that work more than two years ago and at no point has there been any hint of any wrongdoing. Diplomatic missions around the globe should be concerned by the suggestion that normal diplomatic work could be grounds for future detention.

For Crisis Group, Michael has always worked transparently and constructively with the Chinese authorities. He has met dozens of Chinese officials to share our analysis and policy ideas and ensure the Chinese government’s views are accurately reflected in our work. He regularly visits Beijing to meet those officials, to attend conferences at the invitation of Chinese organisations, and on personal visits. He frequently appears on Chinese television and other media. His work reflects that of Crisis Group experts worldwide, who engage with policymakers, especially those from countries in which we work, to help parties avert or find solutions to conflicts.

“Far from being secretive, Michael’s work was open for all to see, Chinese officials first and foremost,” Malley said. Crisis Group’s work seeks to enhance regional and international security to the benefit of all states in the region, including China. “The real danger to China comes from Michael’s arbitrary arrest and detention for these will have a chilling effect on people wanting to visit and engage with the country."

“I am particularly grateful for the lead role that Canada is playing in seeking Michael’s release, and for all their help in reassuring us and Michael’s family that everything is being done to bring him home safely. We will continue to fight for Michael and will not rest until he is released, free, and reunited with his loved ones."

Contact: media@crisisgroup.org