A former Canadian diplomat now working for the International Crisis Group has been detained in China, news that could further complicate an already tense diplomatic standoff over the arrest of a senior Chinese tech executive in Vancouver last week.
Reports of Michael Kovrig's disappearance came just hours before Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer for Huawei Technologies, was due to appear in court for a bail hearing on US charges related to alleged Iran sanctions violations.
Since her December 1 arrest at Vancouver's airport, Canadian authorities have stressed that the matter is legal, not political. But China views her arrest as a US bid to gain trade war leverage and has warned of "severe consequences" if she is not released.
Although it is not clear whether there is a link between Meng's case and Kovrig's detention, the timing of his disappearance will no doubt complicate the standoff over the Huawei case.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa that he was "aware of the Canadian detained in China". He said Canada is taking the case "very seriously" and has been in touch with Chinese diplomats.
Kovrig is a former Canadian diplomat posted to Beijing. Since February 2017, he has been working for the International Crisis Group, covering security issues across Northeast Asia. He frequently speaks to the news media about his research.
His employer said it is looking into his disappearance. "International Crisis Group is aware of reports that its North East Asia Senior Adviser, Michael Kovrig, has been detained in China," the think-tank said in a statement.
"We are doing everything possible to secure additional information on Michael's whereabouts as well as his prompt and safe release," it added.
Meng asked a Canadian court to release her from jail so that she may await her extradition hearing in the comfort of one of her two multimillion-dollar homes, watched by a private security firm she will hire at her own expense and an electronic monitor.
Meng, 46, is requesting bail on grounds that she is in poor health and has close ties to Vancouver. Her lawyer suggested that her husband could serve as her guarantor.
The Canadian judge questioned whether her husband would be an appropriate choice and raised questions about whether the electronic monitor could be hacked.