FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks on the phone with U.S. President Joe Biden, who made the first call to a foreign leader following his inauguration, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada January 22, 2021. Picture taken January 22, 2021. Adam Scotti/Prime Minister's Office/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY./File Photo (via REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks on the phone with U.S. President Joe Biden, who made the first call to a foreign leader following his inauguration, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada January 22, 2021. Picture taken January 22, 2021. Adam Scotti/Prime Minister's Office/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY./File Photo (via REUTERS)

Trudeau says ‘arbitrary’ detention of Canadians threatens China’s ties with West

Canadian diplomats were not granted access to the trial, nor were other Western envoys, 10 of whom from eight countries joined them outside the courthouse in solidarity.
UPDATED ON MAR 20, 2021 12:16 PM IST

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has warned Beijing that the arbitrary detention of two Canadians and the lack of transparency over their trial threatens China’s relations with Western nations. “Their arbitrary detention is completely unacceptable, as is the lack of transparency around these court proceedings,” he said at a daily media briefing on Friday.

Businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were arrested in China days after a senior executive of the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, was detained in Vancouver in December 2018 for possible deportation to the US with relation to a case of alleged defrauding of a bank to sidestep sanctions against Iran. Spavor faced a trial in a Beijing court on Friday on charges of espionage and Kovrig’s hearing is scheduled for Monday.

“China needs to understand that it is not just about two Canadians. It is about the respect for the rule of law and relationships with a broad range of Western countries that is at play with the arbitrary detention and the coercive diplomacy they have engaged in,” said Trudeau. He referred to the “lack of transparency” with regard to the court proceedings in China and added that made it “extremely difficult to make judgments around whether or not the trial was fair.”

Canadian diplomats were not granted access to the trial, nor were other Western envoys, 10 of whom from eight countries joined them outside the courthouse in solidarity.

On Wednesday, Canadian foreign minister Marc Garneau said the detentions of the two Michaels were “arbitrary”. He added the government was “deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding these proceedings.”

In a reaction posted on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa on Friday, an unnamed spokesperson described Garneau’s statement as “fact-distorting” and expressed China’s “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to it.

“We urge the Canadian side to earnestly respect China’s judicial sovereignty and stop making irresponsible remarks and interfering in China’s handling of cases in accordance with law in any form. It is imperative for the Canadian side to immediately correct its mistakes and release Meng Wanzhou and ensure her safe return to China,” the embassy said.

It also indicated the link to the detention of Meng, though China has, in the past, denied the connection, accusing Canada of being “hypocritical and arrogant”. “When it comes to arbitrary detention, Ms Meng Wanzhou has been arbitrarily detained for over two years despite the fact that she hasn’t violated any Canadian law. This is arbitrary detention in every sense of the term,” the embassy said.

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