Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to employees at the Alouette aluminum plant, Tuesday, May 21, 2019 in Sept-Iles, Quebec. (Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canada in ‘difficult situation’ with China, says Trudeau

Canada is in a “difficult situation with China” but diplomatic efforts to resolve differences and secure the release of two Canadians detained by China on spying allegations continue, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday.

Speaking with reporters after touring an aluminium plant in Quebec, Trudeau said other countries also share Canada’s concerns over China’s actions.

“As I travel around the world, I speak to global leaders who are all very concerned about some the decisions and some of the positioning that China has taken recently, it’s not just the United States, it’s Europe, it’s Asian countries,” Trudeau said.

“Canada, obviously, is in a difficult situation with China right now but we’re going to continue to hold strong, we are going to continue to stand up for our values and our principles, we’re going to put the safety and security of Canadians first and foremost as we always do and we’re going to work with our allies to ensure that China understands that Canada is going to stay strong.”

A parliamentary delegation is in China

A Canadian parliamentary delegation is in China this week for talks with Chinese officials about the fate of former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor accused by Beijing of spying, said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The delegation, which consists of members of the Canada-China Legislative Association, includes Freeland’s parliamentary secretary, Toronto area Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, Freeland said.

“Rob has been raising the case of the detained Canadians. That is really important for the Chinese to be hearing directly from us,” Freeland told CBC’s Metro Morning on Tuesday.


Freeland said she’s repeatedly tried and failed to get a meeting with her counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Trudeau also has not spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping in recent weeks.

“The Chinese practice seems to be to avoid, in the early stages of these kinds of standoffs, to avoid higher-level meetings,” Freeland said.

The Canadian parliamentarians are set to visit Shanghai, Nanjing, Hong Kong and Macao for meetings over May 20-25 and will raise Canada’s concerns, said a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada.

Collateral damage from U.S.-China spat

Michael Spavor (left) and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were officially arrested by Chinese authorities on spying allegations last week after spending nearly six month in custody. (Associated Press/ International Crisis Group/The Canadian Press)

Beijing’s arrest of Kovrig and Spavor has been seen as retaliation for Canada’s detention in December of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei who currently faces extradition to the United States.

Kovrig and Spavor were taken into custody in China soon after Canada detained Meng in December, with both countries’ actions straining relations between China, the U.S. and Canada.

Kovrig and Spavor have been accused of acting together to steal state secrets and could be sentenced to death if convicted.

China is demanding Meng’s immediate release and has called on the U.S. to withdraw the extradition request and stop the “unreasonable suppression” of Chinese companies.

The U.S. accuses Meng, Huawei, a U.S. subsidiary and telecom equipment seller Skycom of committing bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charges are linked to possible violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, back right, who is out on bail and remains under partial house arrest after she was detained Dec. 1 at the behest of American authorities, is accompanied by a private security detail as she leaves her home to attend a court appearance in Vancouver, on Wednesday May 8, 2019. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The 47-year-old daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei made an appearance in a crowded courtroom in Vancouver on May 8 in the latest step in her much-anticipated extradition hearing.

Meng remains free on a $10-million bail and resides at one of the mansions in Vancouver she co-owns with her husband.

During her latest court appearance, Meng’s lawyers asked that she be allowed to move to another mansion in Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighbourhood, which they said is more secure.

In the meantime, while Canadian officials have been allowed regular consular visits with Kovrig and Spavor, the two men have had no access to lawyers.

Guy Saint-Jacques, one of Canada’s former ambassadors to China, told CBC News that the pair could soon face trial, though it is unclear when that may be, and their fates are likely already sealed,

According to Saint-Jacques, those formally accused in the Chinese system are found guilty in 99.9 per cent of cases.

With files from CBC News

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