'He's an advocate for China': Former colleague stunned by Michael Kovrig's arrest
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Tuesday, December 11, 2018 5:13PM PST
A Victoria woman who spent 10 years working alongside a former Canadian diplomat detained in China says she's shocked at news of his arrest.
News broke Tuesday that Michael Kovrig, currently the North East Asia senior adviser for the International Crisis Group, was arrested for unspecified reasons in China.
Kovrig is an ex-diplomat who once worked as a lead on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's 2016 visit to Hong Kong.
His arrest came after China warned Canada of consequences relating to the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver's airport at the behest of U.S. officials, but it's not yet clear if there's a link between the cases.
Katie McGowan lives in Victoria but spent 10 years working in China alongside Kovrig on various projects as a business strategist.
She said she's stunned, since Kovrig was such an ambassador for China.
"He is such a great guy, he's an advocate for China, he has studied the Chinese language, he loves the Chinese culture," McGowan told CTV News.
She said in her opinion, Kovrig's arrest is a direct retaliation for Meng's arrest at the Vancouver airport.
"My hope would be that we can remember that it's America that perhaps triggered this, and the timing is very suspicious," she said. "We just signed NAFTA 2.0 and it's got the clause in there in section 32.10 that says we have to let them know if we do deals with China, and Trump's just strong-armed into trying to get them to do a deal by March 2019."
She said she hopes both Canadian and Chinese officials remember their long history of cooperation in dealing with the Kovrig situation.
"We've been friends for a long time," she said. "That's a long history there."
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the arrest "has our attention" and Trudeau said the government has been in touch with Chinese diplomats.