Michael Kovrig

Michael Spavor Detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig ISSN (identifier)

Michael Kovrig is a Canadian former diplomat who worked for the International Crisis Group, a transnational, pro-peace think tank. After being detained in December 2018, he was accused of espionage by the Chinese government in May 2019, and his arrest is thought by some press outlets to be retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on December 1, 2018.[1][2] Kovrig's arrest has become a recent point of contention for Canada-China relations.[3]


In his early years, Kovrig attended Royal St. George's College.[4] Kovrig graduated from Columbia University with a master's degree in international affairs and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.[5] and worked for a time after graduation at the United Nations Development Programme in New York City and in Kabul, Afghanistan.[6]

From 2010 to 2016, Kovrig worked for Canada's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and was stationed in Hong Kong and Beijing from 2012-2016.[7]

Arrest and captivity

Kovrig joined the International Crisis Group in February 2017 as a senior advisor to North East Asia.[6] On 10 December 2018, Michael Kovrig was detained in Beijing around the same time as Michael Spavor, a Canadian consultant with a personal relationship with Kim Jong-Un and a history of working with North Korea.[8] Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called his arrest "arbitrary."[9]

On 21 January 2019, more than 220 prominent political and academic individuals signed a letter calling on China to release Kovrig and Spavor.[10]

In March 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Kovrig was permitted by his captors to have a telephone conversation with his sick father.[11] On April 23, 2020, the 500th day of Kovrig's captivity, Trudeau said consular visits for the detained Canadians were being blocked on account of the coronavirus lockdown.[12]


  1. ^ News (2020-04-18). "No visitors for Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor due to COVID-19 as 500th day in Chinese prison nears | National Post". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  2. ^ Clarke, Donald. "Opinion | China is holding two Canadians as hostages. It's not even denying it". Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  3. ^ Staff; agencies (2019-09-05). "Canada: Trudeau accuses China of using 'arbitrary detentions' for political ends". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  4. ^ RSGC Alumni Association. "Michael Kovrig '89 is a former Canadian diplomat working as the Senior Advisor, North East Asia for the International Crisis Group. He has been detained in China, without offence, since December 2018. On behalf of the entire Georgian community, we pray for his health, safety and his safe return home. He is in our thoughts. We call on the Government of Canada to bring all of its resources to secure the release of Michael and Michael Spavor". www.facebook.com.
  5. ^ "Michael Kovrig". Crisis Group. 2017-02-20. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  6. ^ a b "Michael Kovrig". Crisis Group. 2017-02-20. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  7. ^ "Canadian ex-diplomat 'held in China'". BBC News. 2018-12-12. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  8. ^ "Detention of Michael Kovrig". Crisis Group. 2018-12-12. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  9. ^ Staff; agencies (2019-09-05). "Canada: Trudeau accuses China of using 'arbitrary detentions' for political ends". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  10. ^ "Mr. Xi, release these two Canadian citizens". The Globe and Mail Inc. 21 January 2019. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  11. ^ "Michael Kovrig granted phone call by China with ill father amid coronavirus pandemic". Global News. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  12. ^ "Held for 500 days: Trudeau confirms China blocking visits to Canadian duo". South China Morning Post. 2020-04-24. Retrieved 2020-04-29.