Biographical sketches of 2 Canadians missing in China

BEIJING – Two Canadian citizens have been reported missing in China over recent days amid a dispute over Canada's detention of a Chinese business executive wanted in the U.S. on bank fraud charges. China has yet to provide any information or even formally acknowledge their detentions. Below are profiles of the two men, one a … Continue reading “Biographical sketches of 2 Canadians missing in China”

BEIJING – Two Canadian citizens have been reported missing in China over recent days amid a dispute over Canada's detention of a Chinese business executive wanted in the U.S. on bank fraud charges. China has yet to provide any information or even formally acknowledge their detentions.

Below are profiles of the two men, one a diplomat on hiatus working for an international think tank, the other an entrepreneur and business consultant dealing with North Korea.



A Toronto native and resident of Hong Kong, Kovrig had most recently worked as a senior adviser for northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank on global affairs.

A Chinese speaker, Kovrig went on leave without pay to take up his position nearly two years ago and no longer holds a diplomatic passport — along with the immunity that bestows. Prior to that, he worked as a Canadian diplomat in various portfolios, including in the consulate general in Hong Kong, where he helped arrange a visit by Prime Minister Dustin Trudeau in 2016.

As first secretary and vice consul at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing from 2014 to 2016, Kovrig traveled around China conducting field research on politics and government policies and meeting with contacts, including political dissidents. Such work is common among diplomats and foreign journalists in China, but is viewed with deep suspicion by China's ruling Communist Party, raising the possibility Kovrig could be charged with espionage.

Kovrig, believed to be in his late 40s, was a frequent commentator on China affairs for the foreign media, including The Associated Press.

Kovrig was very capable and a "very smart guy," who was extremely knowledgeable about China, a former Canadian ambassador to China, David Mulroney, told the Toronto Star.

Kovrig also worked for the United Nations Development Program after graduating from the University of Toronto and Columbia University.



China-based Spavor is known for his contacts with high-ranking North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, with whom he has been photographed shaking hands and laughing.

He was also key to bringing NBA player Dennis Rodman to North Korea in 2013 in what was considered a significant, if somewhat quirky, breakthrough in the outside world's contact with the young head of the hard-line communist regime.

In 2015, Spavor founded Paektu Cultural Exchange, a non-governmental organization that works to facilitate sports, cultural, tourism and business exchanges with North Korea. Its mission statement says it aims to "promote greater peace, friendship and understanding."

The exchange is one of a small group of organizations promoting interactions with North Korea in a manner that has sometimes brought controversy for its unwillingness to criticize the regime's human rights abuses. Its Facebook page advertises a five-day trip to North Korea over the New Year, including a visit to the Demilitarized Zone and a hot springs resort.

A fluent Korean speaker with 16 years of experience working and studying in East Asia, Spavor graduated from university in his hometown of Calgary and also studied North Korean affairs at South Korea's Kangwon National University, according to his Facebook page.

Cambodian lawmakers pass measure to ease political ban

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia's Parliament passed legislation Thursday that could allow a five-year ban on political activity by some top opposition politicians to be lifted.

The action was the latest in a low-key charm offensive to improve relations with Western nations that accuse Prime Minister Hun Sen's government of suppressing human and democratic rights. The U.S. and Germany have already instituted some diplomatic sanctions against Cambodia, and Washington and the European Union have threatened to extend economic ones as well.

The main point of contention has been this past July's general election, which critics charge was neither free nor fair because the only credible opposition party had been dissolved and its candidates barred from politics. The late-2017 dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party by court order was generally seen as a move to ensure an election victory by Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party.

The legislature's action would allow the 118 top members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party to apply to have their bans lifted.

However, there would be conditions for restoring political rights that some opposition politicians have already rejected.

Hun Sen, at a meeting Wednesday with garment workers, said the ban would be rescinded only for those politicians who had honored it, while those who violated it could face a prison term.

Cambodia's Foreign Affairs Ministry earlier this month listed the legislation that could cut short political bans as one of several examples of how the government was seeking "to improve the political climate and democratic space for the citizens to exercise their legitimate rights and freedoms in the spirit of national reconciliation."

Since the election, Hun Sen's government has made a series of gestures in an effort to burnish its reputation.

These include the freeing, either on bail or as a result of pardons, of political prisoners, including the head of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, Kem Sokha, who was charged last year with treason on the basis of scant evidence. He is now being held under house arrest.

Many of the banned opposition politicians fled Cambodia in fear of arrest, and restoration of their political rights alone would appear to leave them in the political wilderness. There are no guarantees that new legal actions would not be taken against them in the courts, which are generally seen as being under the government's influence.

Sam Rainsy, another former leader of the opposition party now in exile, said on his Facebook page Tuesday that he wished to tell Hun Sen "that he doesn't need to reconsider our cases because we are not interested in recovering our political rights as long as Mr. Kem Sokha, who is the CNRP President, has not recovered his full freedom and as long as all charges against him have not been dropped."

However, feuding between factions of the opposition party loyal to its two former presidents, Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy, jeopardize a united front against the government's invitation to rejoin the political scene.

Second Canadian missing in China identified as entrepreneur behind North Korea tours

TORONTO – A second Canadian man has gone missing in China and is feared detained in what appears to be retaliation for Canada's arrest of a top executive of telecommunications giant Huawei, Canadian authorities said late Wednesday.

Canada's Global Affairs department identified its missing citizen as Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who is one of the only Westerners to have ever met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Spavor's disappearance follows China's detention of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing earlier this week.

"We have been unable to make contact (with Spavor) since he let us know he was being questioned by Chinese authorities," Global Affairs spokesman Guillaume Bérubé said. "We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we continue to raise this with the Chinese government."

Spavor is a fluent Korean speaker with longstanding ties to the North through his company, Paektu Cultural Exchange. He was instrumental in bringing NBA player Dennis Rodman to Pyongyang in 2013 and has organized a number of tours and joint cultural projects with the North since then.

Earlier Wednesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was worried that another Canadian had been detained in China following Monday's arrest of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing.

At the root of the dispute is Canada's recent arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, for possible extradition to the United States.

A Canadian court on Tuesday released Meng on bail, confining her to Vancouver and its suburbs while she awaits possible extradition to the United States. The U.S. accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to do business with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Trump could pardon the Huawei CFO: Judge Napolitano

Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano on how President Trump said that he may intervene in the DOJ’s case against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou if it helps to close a trade deal with China.

The United States and China have taken pains this week to emphasize that their trade talks are entirely separate from the U.S. case against the top Chinese technology executive. But with a few words, President Donald Trump obliterated the distinction on Tuesday, saying he'd wade into the case if it would help produce a trade agreement with China.

"If I think it's good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what's good for national security — I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary," Trump told Reuters in an interview.

The comment suggests Meng could be a political pawn in negotiations and makes things more awkward for Canada, which arrested her on America's behalf during a Dec. 1 layover at the Vancouver airport.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bristled at Trump's assertion, saying: "Regardless of what goes on in other countries, Canada is, and will always remain, a country of the rule of law."

Freeland said it was "quite obvious" any foreign country requesting extradition should ensure "the process is not politicized."

Canada has also asked China for extra security at its embassy because of protests and anti-Canadian sentiment and has advised foreign service staff to take precautions, a senior Canadian official told reporters.

Meng's arrest came the same day that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed over dinner in Buenos Aires to a 90-day cease-fire in a trade war that has shaken global financial markets and raised worries about the impact on the world economy.

Canadian ex-diplomat detained in China adding to trade tensions

Former President George W. Bush Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Peter Brookes on the mounting U.S. trade tensions with China.

The truce was meant to buy time for more substantive talks over U.S. allegations that China steals U.S. technology and forces American companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

U.S. officials have insisted the sanctions case against Meng had nothing to do with the ongoing trade talks. Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told "Fox News Sunday" that "there's a trade lane … and there is the law enforcement lane. They are different."

"Both Canadian and American officials have emphasized that the Meng arrest is separate from the trade talks," said Gregory Yaeger, special counsel at the Stroock law firm and a former Justice Department trial attorney.

"Trump's remarks could be interpreted as creating the appearance that the arrest also had political motivations. This could undermine the US's reputation as a country that follows the 'rule of law,' and could ultimately undermine both the Meng prosecution and the trade talks."

Still, there is precedent for Trump intervening on behalf of a Chinese company accused of violating U.S. sanctions.

Trump says he’s willing to intervene in Huawei case

Former CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder on how President Trump said that he may intervene in the case against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou if it helps to close a trade deal with China.

Trump drew fire from Capitol Hill in June when he reached a deal that spared another Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE, from U.S. sanctions that probably would have put it out of business after it was accused of selling equipment to Iran and North Korea. U.S. regulators planned to bar it from receiving U.S. components that it depended on, effectively a corporate death sentence.

But Trump issued a reprieve, perhaps partly because U.S. tech companies, major suppliers to ZTE, would also have been scorched. ZTE agreed to pay a $1 billion fine, change its board and management, and let American regulators monitor its operations.

Speaking outside the White House Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urged reporters not to jump to the conclusion that Trump will actually intervene in Meng's case.

"Let's see what he actually decides," Ross said. "Let's see where we go from there."

Philip Levy, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an economic adviser in President George W. Bush's White House, noted that "there's a real value to keeping these things separate."

"Do we want China to seize an (American) executive when they want to get a concession on trade talks in the future?" he asked.

Family of murdered backpacker Grace Millane thanks New Zealand for its compassion

The family of murdered Grace Millane has thanked the country’s people for their compassion and said the British backpacker “will forever be a Kiwi.”

Millane’s father David flew out to New Zealand and has visited the site where her body was found. He and Grace’s uncle, Martin, also took part in a traditional Maori blessing of the site.”Grace was not born here and only managed to stay a few weeks, but you have taken her to your hearts and in some small way she will forever be a Kiwi,” the family said in a statement released on Wednesday.

    Her family said Millane set out to travel the world in mid-October, arriving in New Zealand on November 20. “By the amount of pictures and messages we received she clearly loved this country, its people and the lifestyle,” they said in a statement released on Wednesday. They thanked Auckland Police for carrying “out the most concise, stringent and thorough investigation” into the “heinous crime.” Read More”We all hope that what has happened to Grace will not deter even one person from venturing out into the world and discovering their own overseas experience,” the family added. They thanked New Zealanders for their “outpouring of love, numerous messages, tributes and compassion.”

    Body returned to family

    The 22-year-old was last seen in central Auckland on December 1. Police ended their search on Sunday after finding her body in a wooded area in the Waitakere Ranges, west of the city. Her body was formally identified and returned to her family in New Zealand, Auckland City Police said on Wednesday. “They [her family] are in the process of organizing to take her home, in the next few days,” Detective Inspector Scott Beard said. Grace Millane’s father, David Millane, addresses media.Police are looking for a shovel believed to be related to the inquiry. They said in a statement on Tuesday that they don’t know where the item is and that they would like to hear from anyone who may have found it after December 3.

    Suspect not identified

    A 26-year-old man accused of killing Millane made his first appearance in a New Zealand’s Auckland District Court Monday, RNZ reported.Police had previously said that a man seen with her in Auckland the night she disappeared would be charged in her death.Presiding Judge Evangelos Thomas denied the man’s request to have his name suppressed, but his defense lawyer immediately appealed that decision, meaning he cannot be publicly identified for 20 days, RNZ reported.The man — who appeared in court wearing a blue jumpsuit — was remanded in custody until he appears in court in January, the broadcaster reported. Thomas addressed Millane’s family members at the court hearing, RNZ said.Police at the scene where a body was found.”I don’t know what we say to you at this time. Your grief must be desperate,” it quoted the judge as saying. “All of us hope that justice for Grace is fair, swift and ultimately brings you some peace.”Detective Inspector Beard issued an appeal for sightings of a 2016 red Toyota Corolla hatchback hired from a rental company.”The focus now is to piece together exactly what happened to a young girl, who came to this country on her (worldwide trip),” he said.

    Prime Minister apologizes

    The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologized to Millane’s family on Monday. She said Millane should have been safe on her trip to New Zealand, a place that prides itself on manaakitanga — a word from the Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous Polynesian people — meaning hospitality.

      “From the Kiwis I have spoken to, there is this overwhelming sense of shame that this has happened in our country, a place that prides itself on its hospitality, on its manaakitanga, especially to those who are visiting our shores,” Ardern said.”So on behalf of New Zealand, I want to apologize to Grace’s family: Your daughter should have been safe here and she wasn’t and I’m sorry for that.”

Jailed for exposing a massacre: Reuters journalists mark one year in Myanmar prison

Journalists, activists and Myanmar civil society groups are calling for the immediate release of two Reuters reporters, exactly one year since they were arrested and later jailed for their work exposing a massacre of Rohingya Muslims by members of the military.

“The fact that they remain in prison for a crime they did not commit calls into question Myanmar’s commitment to democracy, freedom of expression and rule of law,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement. “The people of Myanmar deserve the freedoms and democracy they have long been promised, and Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo deserved to be returned to their families and colleagues immediately.”

    The case of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo was seen as a litmus test for press freedom and democratic rights in the Southeast Asian country. Their subsequent sentence of seven years in prison cast a pall over Myanmar’s media community, and sparked increased international criticism of the country’s de facto leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. On Tuesday, the Reuters reporters were among several journalists named as Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2018 under the banner “the Guardians.” It’s just one of several honors, awards and accolades the pair have received for their work while behind bars.


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      Why Time chose ‘The Guardians’ as ‘Person of the Year’ 06:07Read More

      A ‘sham’ trial

      Wednesday also marks a year that Pan Ei Mon and Chit Su Win have spent without their husbands. Pan Ei Mon was pregnant when Wa Lone was detained and she gave birth to a baby girl — Thet Htar Angel — a month before her husband was sentenced. He did not see his daughter until she was 11 weeks old.”I want my daughter to know how much her father loves her,” Pan Ei Mon told CNN in September. “When I was coaxing her to sleep, she was looking at me, and she was holding my fingers, which are nice moments for me. But I want my husband to feel those nice moments too.”Both women have struggled with being separated from their husbands for so long. Angel had been sick, but Pan Ei Mon hid that fact from the girl’s father, so as not to burden him further. Nevertheless, she said she was proud of his continued defiance — Wa Lone’s cheery smile and double thumbs up have become his trademark, despite being shackled and led everywhere by police — and his calls for press freedom. Journalists Kyaw Soe Oo (left) and Wa Lone (right) seen being escorted by police after their sentencing by a court to jail in Yangon on September 3, 2018.The two reporters were arrested during an investigation which helped uncover the killing of 10 Rohingya men in the western state of Rakhine and served as evidence of Myanmar military abuses against Rohingya civilians there, despite repeated denials from the army and the government. The killings they investigated were part of a campaign of rape, arson and murder which the military unleashed on the persecuted minority last year, and which led to more than 720,000 Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh. A UN fact-finding mission has called for several top generals to face charges of genocide over the crackdown. The two journalists’ reporting did not sit well with the military leaders, who paraded them through a trial that human rights lawyer Amal Clooney declared a “sham” and “a miscarriage of justice.” They were charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, a rarely-used colonial-era law, for possessing documents relating to the massacre. But supporters of the pair have alleged they were set up, and police captain Moe Yan Naing later told the court he witnessed a plot by senior police to frame the two journalists. He was imprisoned himself not long after. Another police officer told the court he had burned his notes from the arrest, while a colleague read from notes that were written on his hand.


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        ‘Total sham’: Reuters President on jailed Myanmar journalists 07:56Clooney, who helped represent the reporters, said prosecutors seemed less interested in the documents the reporters were charged with possessing, and more in “who the journalists’ sources were … and questioned why, as Buddhists, they would bother exposing crimes committed against Rohingyas.” During the trial, Myanmar’s military confirmed the massacre had taken place, and state media reported seven soldiers were jailed for the killings. Yet still, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison. Jailed Reuters journalists: Families face life with no father”It demonstrates the extent to which the military is still controlling significant portions of the judicial system,” said Matt Smith, chief executive officer of advocacy group Fortify Rights. “This is a case that the military has demonstrated a particular interest in and I think the fact that the trial was such a farce and they’re still behind bars is indicative of the military’s role.” Despite a partial transition to democracy after decades of military rule, the army’s power is still far-reaching. In the country’s north, three ethnic Kachin activists — Lum Zawng, Nang Pu and Zau Jet — are currently being held for allegedly criticizing the army during a peaceful protest in April against ongoing fighting there. The UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said last week she is “seriously concerned by the continual shrinking of the democratic space in Myanmar, and the culture of fear that now exists.”

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          ‘Journalism is not a crime but genocide is’

          Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have always maintained their innocence. “We didn’t do anything wrong,” Kyaw Soe Oo said after their sentencing in September, though he added he was “not exactly shocked by the verdict.”On November 20, the Yangon High Court allowed an appeal for the two journalists to go ahead later this month. But their year-long incarceration has “sent a shiver through the national media, “said Yin Yadanar Thein, director of advocacy group Free Expression Myanmar.”As a result there is an almost total media blackout on what is happening inside Rakhine state because journalists are too fearful to publish even the most basic information,” she added. With a general election scheduled for 2020, press freedom advocates are calling on Suu Kyi to reform a host of colonial-era laws, including the Official Secrets Act, that are currently being used to restrict freedom of speech. Others are pushing for those who committed atrocities in Rakhine and elsewhere in the country to be held accountable — the International Criminal Court is currently examining whether there is sufficient evidence to file charges for the forced deportations of Rohingya. “Journalism is not a crime but genocide is, and it should be prosecuted in an independent and impartial international court.” said Fortify Rights’ Smith. “The government fears and distrusts the media and is attempting to control it by force, regardless of basic human rights. This case is an affront to rule of law.”'If we go they will kill us': Rohingya refugees fear repatriation to Myanmar Suu Kyi has defended the reporters’ jailing, saying at an event in Singapore earlier this year that they broke the law and their conviction had “nothing to do with freedom of expression at all.” She has also steadfastly defended the military’s actions in Rakhine, echoing assertions by the army that the crackdown was a legitimate response to attacks by Rohingya militants.As well as accusing the international media of biased coverage of the Rohingya crisis, ministers in Suu Kyi’s government have called on the country’s journalists to protect the reputation of the country. Some observers have compared her tactics to those of past military regimes.

            “Suu Kyi is like a matriarch who wants to protect her family but does so by controlling everything they do rather than giving them the knowledge and confidence to protect themselves,” according to Yin Yadanar Thein. She said the ruling National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi’s party, “needs to look in the mirror and see that they are becoming what they bravely campaigned against for so many years.”

WWF announces discovery of 157 new species in Southeast Asia

A bat which looks like *NSYNC’s Lance Bass, a gibbon named for Luke Skywalker, and a toad which seems to have come “from Middle Earth,” are among 157 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong Region last year, according to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund.

Three mammal, 23 fish, 14 amphibian, 26 reptile and 91 plant species were found in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, in some of the region’s most impenetrable terrain, such as remote mountainous and dense jungle areas, as well as isolated rivers and grassland. However, experts warned that many more undiscovered species will be lost due to deforestation, climate change, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.

    “There are many more species out there waiting to be discovered and tragically, many more that will be lost before that happens,” Stuart Chapman, WWF’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director for Conservation Impact, said in a statement. “It doesn’t have to be this way. Ensuring that large reserves are designated for wildlife, along with increased efforts to close illegal wildlife trade markets, will go a long way to conserving the extraordinary wildlife diversity in the Mekong region.”Much of the wildlife described in the new report — “New Species on the Block” — is already at risk of population loss or even extinction. Read MoreThis fragility ranges from bamboo — a variety with unique bulb-like features at its base, discovered in Cambodia’s fragrant Cardamom Mountains, vulnerable to clearing — to the new thismia herb from Laos, already endangered because its habitat has been leased out for limestone mining. Of the new mammals discovered, the Skywalker Hoolock Gibbon was first sighted in mid-2017 and named after the “Star Wars” character, to actor Mark Hamill’s delight. Already however, it is the 25th most endangered primate in the world and faces a “grave and imminent risk to its survival as (do) many other small ape species in southern China and Southeast Asia due to habitat loss and hunting,” according to the team which discovered it. While Laos and Myanmar have tried to clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade, by increasing penalties and shutting down shops and markets, poachers can easily capture and transport animals across borders, particularly in places such as Mongla and Tachilek in Myanmar, said Lee Poston, spokesman for the WWF in the Greater Mekong area.A bat whose hair bears a likeness to Lance Bass’ iconic frosted tips of the band *NSYNC, was discovered in the sub-Himalayan habitat of the Myanmar’s Hkakabo Razi forest.Poston said snares fashioned from cheap bicycle cable are often used indiscriminately by poachers, both to catch bushmeat for local consumption and to capture endangered species such as leopards and tigers for the wildlife trade. While he praised the work of local rangers who track and survey the areas for traps, the sheer quantity make the task of removing them difficult. Despite the challenges, Poston said the new report was a “testament to the resiliency of nature.”

      “By highlighting these incredible discoveries by hundreds of the world’s scientists, we are sending a message that even though the threats are immense to wildlife in the Greater Mekong, there is still hope for the future, because so many amazing new species are being discovered all the time,” he said.In a statement, Chapman said “there is blood, sweat and tears behind every new discovery. But it’s a race against time to announce a new discovery so steps can be taken to protect it before it’s too late.”

India’s ruling party suffers major poll setback in state election battle

India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party has suffered a resounding defeat in state elections, boosting the opposition before national elections next year.

Official results show Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) losing the three key states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, with the opposition center-left Congress emerging as the single largest party in each.Modi acknowledged defeat, saying in a tweet that “We accept the people’s mandate with humility.” It was the BJP’s first major setback in state elections since it stormed to power nationally in 2014.

    Congress, which had ruled India for most of the time since independence from Britain in 1947, was relishing an unexpectedly sizeable boost before a general election which must be held by next May. Results were still coming in but it appeared set to form the government in Chhattisgarh and could lead coalitions in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. “There is a huge responsibility on Congress party now and we will work towards fulfilling promises we made in these states,” party president Rahul Gandhi told a press conference as jubilant supporters danced and set off firecrackers. Read More”A question is being asked about the future of our youngsters and how the country will create jobs. It is pretty clear that there is a feeling throughout the country that Mr. Modi hasn’t delivered what he promised.” 'Modicare': India's PM promises free health care for half a billionPoll results in two other states — Telangana and Mizoram — showed the BJP and Congress lost to regional parties respectively. Analysts had predicted a setback for the BJP but the results “were worse than we had anticipated” (for it), according to Washington-based think tank Eurasia Group. The results were a sharp reverse for Modi, whose party took 282 of 543 parliamentary seats in 2014.”The scale of anger against the BJP is quite strong and in the past, they have been able to stave it off… perhaps through campaign techniques or resorting to keeping urban voters on their side,” said Neelanjan Sircar, a senior fellow at the New Delhi-based think tank Center for Policy Research. “I think it is fair to call it a litmus test.” India ruling party lawmaker charged with rape of minorModi swept into office on promises of an economic boom and a corruption-free government. However, with just months to go before the 2019 polls, his popularity has started to wane. Economic growth dropped sharply to 7.1 percent in the latest quarter, compared to the 8.2 percent GDP growth reported in August.

      “The wrath seems to be amongst the agricultural population…We are now in the part of the country where there is much less urban population, urbanizing much less quickly, and therefore the anger in the rural belt — anger among farmers — has a much stronger impact on the electoral outcome,” said Sircar.Apart from the slowing economy, the Modi government’s reputation has also been tarnished by increasing incidents of communal violence and of sexual violence against women.

Meng Wanzhou, Chinese telecom exec facing possible extradition to US, granted bail by Canadian judge

A Canadian judge on Tuesday granted bail to Meng Wanzhou, the Chinese telecom executive facing possible extradition to the U.S. after she was detained in Vancouver earlier this month.

Justice William Ehrcke announced his decision after three days of hearings.

He granted bail of $10 million Canadian (US$7.5 million) to Meng, but required her to wear an ankle bracelet, surrender her passports, stay in Vancouver and its suburbs, and confine herself to one of her two Vancouver homes from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Meng's case has led to the apparent detention of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing and complicated high-stakes U.S.-China trade talks.

She is the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei and also the daughter of its founder.


Meng was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport on Dec. 1 — the same day that Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping of China agreed to a 90-day cease-fire in a trade dispute that threatens to disrupt global commerce.


The U.S. has accused Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also said Meng and Huawei misled banks about the company's business dealings in Iran.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Meng Wanzhou at a session of the VTB Capital Investment Forum "Russia Calling!" in Moscow, Russia, in October 2014. (REUTERS/Alexander Bibik, File)

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies and has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns over its ties to the Chinese government. The U.S. has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.

The U.S. and China have tried to keep Meng's case separate from their wider trade dispute and suggested Tuesday that talks to resolve their differences may resume.

Still, Trump undercut efforts to distinguish between trade talks and the Huawei case. He told Reuters on Tuesday he would consider intervening in the Justice Department's case against Meng if it would be in the interest of U.S. national security or help forge a trade deal with Beijing.


The Chinese government said its economy czar had discussed plans with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer for talks aimed at settling the two countries' differences. Lighthizer's office confirmed he had spoken by phone with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

The news that trade negotiations may resume lifted stock markets around the world.

The United States has slapped tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports in response to complaints Beijing steals American technology and forces U.S. companies to turn over trade secrets.

Tariffs on $200 billion of those imports were scheduled to rise from 10 percent to 25 percent on Jan. 1. Trump agreed to postpone those by 90 days while the two sides negotiate.


Canada's public safety minister said Monday the government has been deeply concerned about the Canadian detained in China — confirming that the former diplomat was being held in Beijing amid the dispute between the two counties over Canada's arrest of Meng.

Minister Ralph Goodale said the government was sparing no effort to look after ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig's safety.

China had warned Canada of consequences for arresting Meng.

Goodale said there was no explicit indication at this point that the cases were related, and he said Canada was working to determine why Kovrig was detained.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Frank Miles is a reporter and editor covering geopolitics, military, crime, technology and sports for His email is

Former Canadian diplomat reportedly arrested in China

TORONTO – A former Canadian diplomat has reportedly has been arrested in China.

The International Crisis Group said Tuesday it's aware of reports that its North East Asia senior adviser Michael Kovrig has been detained. Kovrig had served as the political lead for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's trip to Hong Kong in 2016.

The Brussels-based non-governmental organization said in a statement that it's doing everything possible to obtain additional information about Kovrig's whereabouts and that it will work to ensure his prompt release.

The Globe and Mail in Toronto and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported the arrest, citing unnamed sources.

The reports of Kovrig's detention come after China warned Canada of consequences for its recent arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver's airport. It's unclear if there's any link between the cases.

The International Crisis Group said Kovrig has been one of its full-time experts since February 2017.

The organization's website says Kovrig previously worked as a Canadian diplomat in Beijing and Hong Kong and at the United Nations.

Canada's Global Affairs department didn't immediately respond with comment.

Former Canadian Liberal leader Bob Rae said it's clear why he's been detained.

"It's called repression and retaliation," Rae tweeted.

Kovrig wrote on his LinkedIn profile that he had served as the political lead on a visit Trudeau made to Hong Kong in September 2016. He worked in Canada's consulate-general in Hong Kong at the time.

Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Trudeau, said that Chinese "retaliation against Canadian interests or Canadians would be unacceptable and pointless."

"It would have zero impact on judicial proceedings in Canada," Paris tweeted. "Beijing should already know this from previous experience. Let cooler heads prevail."

Jorge Guajardo, Mexico's former ambassador to China, said Canada needs to take dramatic action.

"I'd be summoning the entire Canadian consular Corp in China home for training. If that means they can't issue visas in the meantime, certainly the Chinese would understand. These are special times," he tweeted.

Hu Xijin, editor in chief of China's state-run newspaper Global Times, wrote on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo that there isn't any evidence that Kovrig's detention was government retaliation for Meng's arrest, though he added that the current situation was "highly sensitive" because of a "American-Canadian conspiracy" to arrest Meng.

"If people in the rest of the world make this association, it's because Meng Wanzhou's arrest was really way over the line. Naturally, people would think that China would take revenge," Hu said.

The Latest: Cabinet official confirms ex-diplomat held

TORONTO – The Latest on the detention of a former Canadian diplomat in China (all times local):

1:45 p.m.

Canada's public safety minister says the government is deeply concerned about a Canadian detained in China — confirming that a former Canadian diplomat is being held in Beijing amid a dispute between the two counties over Canada's arrest of a Chinese executive.

Minister Ralph Goodale said Tuesday the government is sparing no effort to look after the Canadian's safety. The comment came in response to a question about reports that former diplomat Michael Kovrig had been arrested in China, though he did not mention him by name.

The detention follows Chinese warnings to Canada of consequences for its recent arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver's airport.

Goodale said there is no explicit indication at this point that the cases are related and he said Canada is working to determine why he was detained.


1:15 p.m.

A former Canadian diplomat has been detained while visiting Beijing.

A person familiar with the matter says Michael Kovrig was detained Monday night in Beijing during one of his regular visits to the city. The person spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak publicly on the matter.

The International Crisis Group said earlier Tuesday it was aware of reports that its North East Asia senior adviser has been detained. The Hong Kong-based Kovrig had served as the political lead for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's trip to that city in 2016.

The Brussels-based non-governmental organization said in a statement that it's doing everything possible to obtain additional information about Kovrig's whereabouts and that it will work to ensure his prompt release.

The detention comes after China warned Canada of consequences for its recent arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver's airport. It's unclear if there's any link between the cases.

The International Crisis Group said Kovrig has been one of its full-time experts since February 2017.

— Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto