Locked up in China: Arrested Canadian says legal trouble followed him home

OTTAWA — Crammed into a cell with 13 other sleep-deprived inmates, strong-armed into singing the Chinese national anthem and forced by shouting guards to watch state television — a Canadian man detained in China last fall is offering a glimpse of what he says life was like for him on the inside.

Jason Cigana, a 39-year-old originally from the Montreal area, had been living and working in China’s southern city of Shenzhen for six years when he was arrested by Chinese police in October. He was locked up for three weeks and eventually deported.

Cigana wanted to share his experience with the Chinese legal system after two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — were arrested there in December.

The Chinese government has said both Kovrig and Spavor were arrested on national-security grounds. Their detentions appear to be in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei senior executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States.

Although his case is different from Kovrig’s and Spavor’s, Cigana’s experience offers a rare look at how China handles people, including foreigners, while they are in custody.

“It’s something pretty rough, to be honest — and I was small potatoes compared to these guys,” Cigana said in an interview, referring to Kovrig and Spavor. “These guys are going to have it a lot, lot worse.”

A Canadian government source, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, confirmed Cigana was detained in China last fall.

Cigana said his arrest came a few days after he made what he describes as “racially charged” comments on an online chat group made up of mostly expatriates. He admits he also made a “very insensitive” remark about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, in which Japanese troops killed many thousands of Chinese people.

He says he regrets both and he never thought his comments would reach an audience outside the 88-member group on the WeChat platform. He said screen shots of the conversation were shared widely on social media in China — and reached tens of millions of people. 

The remarks were translated from English to Chinese, but he says his words were twisted to sound a “hell of a lot worse.”

As his comments spread, they stirred up a lot of public outrage, to the point his conversation made national news in China.

Cigana, who’s married to a Chinese national with whom he has a four-year-old son, learned making such statements also violated local laws.

Fearing a backlash, he holed up at home for days. Then, Chinese police came knocking at his door.

He was detained, interrogated for several hours and released, several times over four days.

Police eventually locked him up for three consecutive weeks.

Cigana described the conditions he faced inside the detention centre as “terrible.” Fourteen people packed into one cell and a shower that consisted of a cup and a bucket, he said.

He recalled the lights being left on for 24 hours a day, and cranked up at night. Barking dogs, slamming doors and shouts from guards made it almost impossible for detainees to ever get any shuteye, he said.

“The rooms are monitored, so let’s say if you’re sleeping and you cover your eyes they’ll start screaming through the intercom to not cover your eyes,” Cigana said.

The guards also forced him to sing the anthem, vow loyalty to China and absorb propaganda on state TV, he said.

“If you turn away from the television during this time you are yelled at and berated,” he said. “It’s something straight out of Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

Months after his detention and deportation, Cigana’s case continues to haunt him.

A website in his name has appeared online and he said it’s designed to ruin his reputation. Purportedly created by his family to seek forgiveness on his behalf, it’s a mix of English and Chinese and talks about what a mess his life has become since “saying horrible disrespectful and insentience (sic) comments about China,” taking “photos of perverted nature” and “saying many pro-Hitler and anti African American culture.”

Cigana said his reputation has been further damaged by other postings on online chat rooms made in his name. Some of the postings are sex-related requests that he had nothing to do with.

“None of it is true,” Cigana said.

When police took him in for questioning, Cigana said his name had yet to appear in any Chinese news stories. But shortly after he left the police station the first day, he said, a photo of him taken during his interrogation as well as his passport information were already circulating on social media.

Cigana has consulted lawyers in an effort to get the website and the postings removed from the internet but he’s been told the process will be difficult and expensive.

As he hunts for work that will help him sponsor his family’s immigration to Canada, Cigana fears he will have difficulty finding any if potential employers Google his name. He’s considered changing it.

He says he “messed up.”

“Not that there’s an excuse — my wife is Chinese, my son is Chinese,” Cigana said. “I don’t hate Chinese people. I guess it was just a case of sometimes we go a little bit hard on the internet without realizing it’s not a game. You can be punished for it. It’s something that essentially ruined my life.”

Last week, a federal government official speaking on background said 200 Canadians are detained in China for a variety of alleged infractions.

Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s ambassador to China between 2012 and 2016, said in an interview that crowded cells with poor sanitary conditions and 24-hour lights have been reported in other cases, including by Canadians Julia and Kevin Garratt. The two were Christian aid workers who ran a coffee shop in northeastern China, near the North Korean border.

China arrested the Garratts in 2014 and accused them of spying and stealing military secrets. It took two years before both were freed.

Saint-Jacques said Canadians facing more minor charges in China, such as visa issues, don’t usually face tough conditions like those described by Cigana.

“It sounds familiar, although maybe a bit harsher,” said Saint-Jacques, comparing Cigana’s recollection to other cases he was aware of.

He added he didn’t recall cases where there were attempts to attack a detainee’s reputation online.

But he said the Nanjing Massacre, in particular, is a very sensitive topic for Chinese people.

“I would like to have more details (about Cigana’s case), but obviously this gentleman touched a raw nerve with his comments and they wanted to make an example,” Saint-Jacques said. “You have to assume ownership of what you say all the time.”

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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By The Wall of Law January 7, 2019 Off

Heart attack, stroke can harm earning power due to life-altering effects: study

TORONTO — Middle-aged Canadians who have had a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest are less likely to be working three years later, and those who can keep working often experience a significant drop in income, researchers report.

In a 2005-2013 study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers evaluated the long-term effects of cardiovascular events such as a stroke on people’s capacity to work and any changes in their annual earnings.

One-third of heart attacks, a quarter of strokes and 40 per cent of cardiac arrests — in which the heart suddenly stops beating — occur in working-age people under 65 and can result in lingering physical and/or cognitive disabilities.

“For people of working age, one of the most important things is the ability to work and earn,” said lead author Dr. Allan Garland, an internal medicine specialist at the University of Manitoba. “So it’s a relevant long-term outcome.”

The study linked Statistics Canada hospitalization data and anonymized tax returns to compare more than 24,500 Canadians aged 40 to 61 who had suffered a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest against their age-matched peers who had not experienced one of those life-threatening events.

Researchers looked at each person’s annual employment earnings for two years prior to the cardiovascular event, then compared them to three years of earnings afterwards.

The figures were then compared to those for people who had not been affected by a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest to determine the affected group’s relative loss of income.

“Three years after admission to hospital for any of these health events, people who survived were less likely than the matched participants to be working and had greater losses in annual earnings,” Garland said.

“The loss in earnings was substantial, with reductions ranging from eight per cent to 31 per cent. Even if people were able to work, their incomes in the third year after the event were five per cent to 20 per cent less than before.”

The financial fallout from suffering a stroke was the most significant, with a 31 per cent drop in earning power versus 23 per cent for cardiac arrest and eight per cent for heart attack.

“And if you looked at the effect on the average annual earnings, it was $14,000 and change — which was 31 per cent of their baseline salary. So stroke patients were losing about a third on average of their incomes.”

That’s because strokes, which damage brain cells, can potentially leave a person with a disability, including weakness on one side of the body, impaired speech or cognitive difficulties.

Such deficits could mean a factory worker left with a weak leg might no longer be able to perform physical tasks like lifting or an office worker with an affected hand and arm could be unable to operate a computer, Garland explained from Winnipeg.

For Carole Laurin, a series of strokes at age 42 meant she had to leave her Manitoba teaching job due to cognitive deficits and residual weakness on her left side that still affects her mobility.

Now 57 and living in Ottawa, Laurin said she was fortunate because her teacher’s long-term disability pension covered physio, occupational and neuropsychological therapy.

“I think I’m lucky because a lot of stroke survivors I’ve met don’t have a pension plan through their employer, so they’re living off their CPP disability,” she said. “They’re struggling more than I am.”

Still, even with her pension, Laurin experienced about a 40 per cent drop in income when she had to give up her career. And there was also the psychological blow.

“It took me two years to grieve the loss of not ever being able to work again. That was a tremendous loss, I still feel it.”

Patrice Lindsay, director of systems change and stroke for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, said it’s not only the individual who has a cardiovascular event who can suffer financially.

There’s also the person’s family — “the spouse who can’t go back to work because they have to provide more intense care or the children of older people who have an economic impact if they have to take time off work to go help their parents or to take them to medical appointments,” she said.

Lindsay said she’s excited about the University of Manitoba study because it provides measurable evidence about the financial consequences of heart disease and stroke that can be presented to the provinces in advocating for change.

“A 40- or 45-year-old is not ready to retire, but what we’re missing in our system right now is widespread availability of specific targeted vocational rehabilitation … that helps get them back to work,” she said.

“We’ve heard many, many times about people having to burn through their retirement savings to pay for their rehab so they can get back to work and have a higher functional level.”

Garland said unemployment and lost earning power due to common cardiovascular events have broad societal relevance, with consequences such as worsening health for patients, potential bankruptcy and loss of tax revenue for governments.

“I think that the goal here needs to be to understand the magnitude of these problems … and then institute policies to try to help these people get back to work.”

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By The Wall of Law January 7, 2019 Off

76th Annual Golden Globe Awards – Show

76th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Show

NEW YORK — In a Golden Globes chock full of upsets, the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” took best picture, drama, over Bradley Cooper’s heavily favoured “A Star is Born” and Glenn Close bested Lady Gaga for best actress.

Few winners were seen as more certain than Lady Gaga as best actress in a drama at Sunday’s ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. But the veteran actress Close pulled off the shocker for her performance in “The Wife,” as the spouse of a Nobel Prize-winning author. Close said she was thinking of her mother, “who really sublimated herself to my father for her whole life.”

“We have to find personal fulfilment. We have to follow our dreams,” said Close, drawing a standing ovation. “We have to say I can do that and I should be allowed to do that.”

Minutes later, the surprise was even greater when “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the night’s top award, shortly after Rami Malek won best actor for his prosthetic teeth-aided performance as Mercury.

“Thank you to Freddie Mercury for giving me the joy of a lifetime,” said Malek. “This is for you, gorgeous.”

Politics were largely absent from the ceremony before Christian Bale took the stage for winning best actor in a musical or comedy for his lead performance in Adam McKay’s “Vice.”

“What do you think? Mitch McConnell next?” joked the Welsh-born actor, referring to the Senate’s majority leader. “Thank you to Satan for giving me inspiration for this role.”

Oh and Andy Samberg opened the Globes, put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, on a note of congeniality, including a mock roast of attendees and a string of jokes that playfully commented on critiques of Hollywood. Oh performed an impression of a sexist caveman film executive who casts like the title of Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong drama: “First … man!”

Noting the success of “Crazy Rich Asians,” Oh alluded to films with white stars in Asian roles like “Ghost in the Shell” and “Aloha,” the latter of which prompted Emma Stone, who starred in “Aloha,” to shout out “I’m sorry!” from the crowd.

But Ottawa-born Oh, who later also won for her performance on the BBC America drama series “Killing Eve,” and Samberg closed their opening monologue on a serious note explaining why she was hosting.

“I wanted to be here to look out at this audience and witness this moment of change,” said Oh, tearing up and gazing at minority nominees in attendance. “Right now, this moment is real. Trust me, this is real. Because I see you. And I see you. All of these faces of change. And now, so will everyone else.”

Some of those faces Oh alluded to won. Mahershala Ali, whom the foreign press association overlooked for his Oscar-winning performance in “Moonlight,” won best supporting actor for “Green Book.” While the Globes, decided by 88 voting members of the HFPA, have little relation to the Academy Awards, they can supply some awards-season momentum when it matters most. Oscar nomination voting begins Monday.

The biggest boost went to “Green Book,” Peter Farrelly’s interracial road trip through the early ’60s Deep South, which has struggled to catch on at the box office while coming under substantial criticism for relying on racial tropes. It won best film, comedy or musical, and best screenplay. “If Don Shirley and Tony Vallelonga can find common ground, we all can,” said Farrelly, the director best known for broader comedies like “There’s Something About Mary.”

As expected, Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt won best song for the signature tune from “A Star Is Born,” the film most expected to dominate the Globes.

“Can I just say that as a woman in music, it’s really hard to be taken seriously as a musician and as songwriter and these three incredible men, they lifted me up,” Gaga said.

Though the Globes are put on by foreign journalists, they don’t including foreign language films in their two best picture categories (for drama and musical/comedy). That left Netflix’s Oscar hopeful, Alfonso Cuaron’s memory-drenched masterwork “Roma” out of the top category. Cuaron still won as best director and the Mexican-born filmmaker’s movie won best foreign language film.

“Cinema at its best tears down walls and builds bridges to other cultures. As we cross these bridges, these experiences and these new shapes and these new faces, we begin to realize that while they may seem strange, they are not unfamiliar,” Cuaron said accepting the foreign language Globe. “This film would not have been possible without the specific colours that made me who I am. Gracias, familia. Gracias, Mexico.”

Netflix also won numerous awards for the series “The Kominsky Method,” which won both best actor in a comedy series for Michael Douglas (he dedicated the honour to this 102-year-old father, Kirk Douglas) and for best comedy series over favoured nominees like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (whose star, Rachel Brosnahan still won) and “Barry.”

“Netflix, Netflix, Netflix,” said series creator Chuck Lorre.

Olivia Colman, expected to be Lady Gaga’s stiffest competition when the two presumably go head-to-head at the Oscars, won best actress in a comedy/musical for her Queen Anne in the royal romp “The Favourite.” ”I ate constantly throughout the film,“ said Colman. ”It was brilliant.“

In this handout photo provided by NBCUniversal, Christian Bale from Vice accepts the Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy award onstage during the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 06, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Best supporting actress in a motion picture went to the Oscar front-runner Regina King for her matriarch of Barry Jenkins’ James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk.” King spoke about the Time’s Up movement and vowed that the crews of everything she produces in the next two years will be half women. She challenged others to do likewise.

“Stand with us in solidarity and do the same,” said King, who was also nominated for the TV series “Seven Seconds.”

A year after the Globes were awash in a sea of black and #MeToo discussion replaced fashion chatter, the red carpet largely returned to more typical colours and conversation. Some attendees wore ribbons that read TIMESUPx2, to highlight the second year of the gender equality campaign that last year organized the Globes black-clad demonstration. Alyssa Milano, the actress who was integral in making #MeToo go viral, said on the red carpet that in the past year a “really wonderful sisterhood has formed.”

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” won for best animated film. Ryan Murphy’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” won for both best limited series and Darren Criss’ lead performance.

For its sixth and final season, FX’s “The Americans” took best drama series over shows like Amazon’s conspiracy thriller “Homecoming” and Oh’s own “Killing Eve.” Richard Madden, the breakout star of the terrorism suspense series “Bodyguard,” won best actor in a drama series. Ben Wishaw took best supporting actor in a limited series for “A Very English Scandal.”

Winner for Best Original Song – Motion Picture for “Shallow – A Star is Born” Lady Gaga poses with the trophy during the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards on January 6, 2019, at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP)

The press association typically likes having first crack at series that weren’t eligible for the prior Emmys. They did this year in not just “The Kominsky Method” and “Bodyguard” but also the Showtime prison drama “Escape at Dannemora.” Its star, Patricia Arquette, won for best actress in a limited series.

Usually the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s ceremony is known for its freewheeling frivolity and fun. The free-flowing booze helps. But the 2018 Globes were the first major televised awards in Hollywood following the downfall of Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent push for greater gender equality in the film industry.

Last year’s show, like a lot of recent awards shows, saw ratings decline. Some 19 million tuned in to the Seth Meyers-hosted broadcast, an 11-per cent decline in viewership. This year, NBC has one thing in its favour: an NFL lead in. Ahead of the Globes, NBC broadcast the late afternoon wild card game between the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles, which proved to be a nail-bitingly close game — likely delivering the network a huge audience.

Jeff Bridges received the Globes’ honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award. In remarks about everything from Michael Cimino to Buckminster Fuller and, of course, to his “Big Lebowski” character the Dude, Bridges compared his life to a great game of tag. “We’ve all been tagged,” said Bridges. “We’re alive.” He ended by “tagging” everyone watching. “We can turn this ship in the way we want to go, man,” said Bridges.

A similar television achievement award was also launched this year, dubbed the Carol Burnett Award. Its first honoree was Burnett, herself.

“I’m kind of really gob-smacked by this,” said Burnett. “Does this mean that I get to accept it every year?”

Complete list of winners at 76th Golden Globe Awards

FILM

Drama: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Actress, Drama: Glenn Close, “The Wife”

Actor, Drama: Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Comedy or Musical: “Green Book”

Actor, Comedy or Musical: Christian Bale, “Vice”

Actress, Comedy or Musical: Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”

Actress-Supporting Role: Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Actor-Supporting Role: Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”

Foreign Language Film: “Roma”

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”

Screenplay: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly, “Green Book”

Animated: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

Original Score: Justin Hurwitz, “First Man”

Original Song: “Shallow,” ”A Star Is Born“

TELEVISION

Drama: “The Americans”

Actress, Drama: Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”

Actor, Drama: Richard Madden, “Bodyguard”

Musical or Comedy: “The Kominsky Method”

Actress, Musical or Comedy: Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Actor, Musical or Comedy: Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”

Limited Series or Movie Made for Television: “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

Actress, Limited Series or Movie Made for Television: Patricia Arquette, “Escape at Dannemora”

Actor, Limited Series or Movie Made for Television: Darren Criss, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

Actress, Supporting Role, Limited Series or Movie Made for Television: Patricia Clarkson, “Sharp Objects”

Actor, Supporting Role, Limited Series or Movie Made for Television: Ben Whishaw, “A Very English Scandal”

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By The Wall of Law January 7, 2019 Off

The Latest: Suspect arrested in NH mall kidnapping, assault

HARTFORD, Vt. — The Latest on a manhunt for a man suspected in New Hampshire mall kidnapping and sexual assault (all times local):

8:10 p.m.

A suspect wanted on kidnapping and sexual assault charges has been arrested in Pennsylvania after a manhunt and car chase.

Vermont State Police say the man forced a woman and her child into their car outside the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester on Saturday and drove to Vermont. Police say he then sexually assaulted the woman. The woman and the child later called the police.

That set off a manhunt for the suspect. He was identified as 41-year-old Everett Simpson. Vermont State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Hartford Police Department were working together on the search.

A call to an attorney who has represented Simpson in the past wasn’t immediately returned.

On Sunday afternoon, police in Pennsylvania finally brought him into custody after an extensive chase.

___

4:55 p.m.

Several law enforcement agencies are searching for a man wanted for crimes including kidnapping and sexual assault.

Vermont State Police said in a statement on Sunday they’re working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Hartford Police Department to find 41-year-old Everett Simpson, who was most recently a resident of St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

The state police say a man later identified as Simpson forced a woman and her child into their car outside the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester on Saturday and drove to Vermont. Police say he then sexually assaulted the woman.

Police ask anyone with information call 911 or their nearest police department. They advise people use extreme caution and not approach Simpson.

A call to an attorney who has represented Simpson in the past wasn’t immediately returned.

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law January 7, 2019 Off

The Latest: Michigan family devastated by fatal crash

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Latest on the death of a Michigan family in a Kentucky vehicle crash (all times local):

7:30 p.m.

The death of a Michigan family of five in a vehicle crash in Kentucky has devastated their relatives and friends.

Habib Abbas of Dearborn, a cousin of the father, told The Detroit News that when he first heard about it he didn’t believe it and went about his day.

He says: “I thought it was a rumour or something and then saw it again and called his sister. She and the family are even more in denial.”

Authorities identified the family members as 42-year-old Issam Abbas and Rima Abbas, 38 and their children, a boy Ali Abbas, 14 and girls Isabella Abbas, 13, and Giselle Abbas, 7.

Abbas says Issam Abbas was a lawyer and that Rima Abbas was a doctor and devoted mother to their children. He says the extended family was close and his cousin led a “beautiful life.”

He added: “You don’t expect a whole family to get wiped out. You think to yourself ‘What’s the worst case scenario?’ and that’s it.”

___

4:30 p.m.

A suspected drunken driver heading the wrong way on Interstate 75 in Kentucky struck a vehicle carrying five family members from Michigan early Sunday, killing all six people, authorities said.

The southbound pickup truck being driven in the northbound lanes struck the family’s sport utility vehicle at 2:30 a.m. in Lexington. The SUV caught fire and all five occupants of that vehicle died, along with the pickup’s driver, Lexington police said in a statement.

The family from Northville, Michigan, was returning from a vacation in Florida, the Fayette County coroner’s office said.

A coroner’s statement identified the family members as Issam Abbas, 42; Rima Abbas, 38 and their children, a boy Ali Abbas, 14 and girls Isabella Abbas, 13, and Giselle Abbas, 7.

___

This item has been corrected to show Ali Abbas was 14.

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law January 7, 2019 Off