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China Releases Canadian-Hungarian Kovrig after 1,000 + Days in Custody

Ábrahám Vass 2021.09.27.

Former Canadian diplomat, Michael Kovrig, who is also a Hungarian citizen, has been released after spending more than 1,000 days in custody in China. Kovrig, together with a Canadian businessman, is supposed to have fallen victim to China’s “hostage diplomacy” after the arrest of Huawei’s executive.

Kovrig was released on Friday, together with the other Canadian he had been arrested with, businessman Michael Spavor. The two are widely seen as victims of China’s “hostage diplomacy” carried out in retaliation against Canada’s arrest and detention of Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, at the request of the U.S. in December, 2018. While China denied that the two cases were connected, Meng was released earlier on Friday after a deal had been reached with the U.S.

Besides his Canadian citizenship, Kovrig is also a Hungarian citizen (although while working as a diplomat, he had to renounce his Hungarian passport) who lived in Budapest for quite some time. His family fled Hungary to escape communism, and he was born in Canada, but moved back to Budapest in the 90s. In Hungary, he worked as an English teacher and a journalist for Budapest Week and the Budapest Business Journal. He even took part in a punk band called Bankrupt as singer. Some weeks ago, Bankrupt published a song and clip both in English (see below) and Hungarian, displaying their support and urging public advocacy for his release.

Hungary’s foreign ministry earlier claimed that Kovrig is “exclusively considered a Canadian citizen by the Chinese authorities,” which is why “no protection of interests procedure could be conducted” by Hungary. In a lengthy analysis about China’s influence in Hungary, investigative site Direkt36 also mentioned Kovrig’s case, claiming that the Hungarian government did not do anything publicly for Kovrig’s release in the past two years.

Featured photo by MTI/AP/The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn