Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is standing his ground after China issued a statement Monday, referring to his remarks on the detention of two Canadians in Beijing “arbitrary.”
Trudeau said that Chinese officials made it clear in the days following the arrests of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor back in December 2018 that their imprisonments were linked with Canada’s detaining of high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou days earlier.
Trudeau was rebutting a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry who said earlier on June 22 that his country does not arbitrarily detain people and that Trudeau’s earlier remarks linking the cases were “irresponsible.”
Trudeau doubled down, saying Chinese officials highlighted an “obvious link” between the arrests of the two Canadians and the RCMP’s arrest of Meng at the Vancouver airport in response to an extradition request from the United States. Meng was arrested on Dec. 1, 2018 and Kovrig and Spavor were arrested nine days later.
“They made those links from the very beginning, and continue to put political pressure on Canada through that detention,” Trudeau said Monday.
“It has been obvious from the beginning that this was a political decision made by the Chinese government, and we deplore it, and have from the very beginning.”
Trudeau thanked allies, including the United States, who have criticized China for “using arbitrary detentions as a means to political ends.” He said Canada and its allies “around the world” remain united against this Chinese practice.
During a press conference on Monday, Trudeau was asked by the media if there is any possibility of trading Meng for the two Michaels, however, the prime minister dismissed this idea saying it wasn’t even being considered.
“Canada has a strong and independent justice system, we will ensure that it goes through its proper forces,” said Trudeau. “Anyone who is considering weakening our values or weakening the independence of our justice system doesn’t understand the importance of standing strong on our principles and our values.”
Earlier Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on China to release the Canadians, saying they face “groundless” charges of spying.
Chinese authorities announced the charges against Kovrig and Spavor on Friday, after the two had spent more than 550 days in prison without access to lawyers or family.
Since January, China has prevented Canadian diplomats from visiting Kovrig and Spavor, citing COVID-19 restrictions.
Trudeau rejected suggestions that Canada should intervene to resolve the Meng case in an attempt to free Kovrig and Spavor.
“We continue to stand up both for the independence of our judicial system and Canadian interests and values,” the prime minister said. “We work behind the scenes and in public to ensure that everyone understands we will continue to work extremely hard to get these Canadians home.”
Pompeo said the U.S. is deeply concerned by China’s decision to formally charge Kovrig and Spavor.
“These charges are politically motivated and completely groundless. The United States stands with Canada in calling on Beijing for the immediate release of the two men and rejects the use of these unjustified detentions to coerce Canada,” Pompeo said in a statement on Monday.
“Additionally, we echo Canada’s call for immediate consular access to its two citizens, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, as China has prohibited such access for almost six months, and the world has no knowledge of the two Canadians’ condition.”
Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, is living in luxury Vancouver home while her extradition hearing wends its way through a British Columbia court.
The United States wants to prosecute Meng for fraud, alleging she lied to banks in Hong Kong about her company’s connections with Iran, which could possibly violate U.S. sanctions.
Last month, the B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled the allegations against Meng could constitute a crime in Canada. That meant Meng’s case remains before the court, unresolved.
Last week, Meng’s lawyers accused the Americans of misleading the B.C. court and said they are seeking a stay in the proceedings.