A Canadian who has been held in isolation in China since 2018 has only just learned of the coronavirus pandemic, describing it as like a “zombie apocalypse movie”.
Michael Kovrig was granted an online consular visit for the first time in 10 months where he learned about the virus, which has caused more than a million deaths globally.
His wife released a statement confirming the access, remarking: “We are extremely proud that despite his long confinement, Michael’s spirit, determination – and even his sense of humour – remain unbroken. This is definitely something we can be grateful for.”
Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, were accused of spying and detained in China in December 2018. It came just days after Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese Huawei official and the daughter of the company’s founder, and was thought by commentators in the west to be an act of retaliation.
Canadian police had detained Meng in Vancouver on a US extradition request nine days before Kovrig and Spavor were arrested.
Kovrig and Spavor were not charged until 18 months after their arrest, in June this year. They have reportedly been denied access to lawyers.
The US is seeking Meng’s extradition on fraud charges and her extradition case is before the Canadian courts. Her arrest severely damaged relations between China and Canada.
“The Canadian government remains deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of these two Canadians since December 2018 and continues to call for their immediate release,” the government said in a statement.
Canada continues to press Beijing to release the men.
Neither were permitted visits from consular officials amid the coronavirus pandemic and have been held in isolation since January.
Prime minister Justin Trudeau spoke to US president Donald Trump about the two Canadians in a phone call on Saturday and thanked the president for the ongoing support of the US in seeking their release.