BEIJING – Canada has urged China to release two high-profile Canadian detainees and grant clemency to several other Canadians sentenced to death by Chinese courts, the Canadian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during talks in Rome on Tuesday that the cases of former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor remain a top priority for the Canadian government.
Their arrests have been widely viewed as retribution for Canada’s detainment at the request of the United States of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co, in late 2018.
“Canada continues to call for immediate consular access to Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor. China’s actions are in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” Champagne said in a statement issued after meeting, which took place on the sidelines of Wang’s visits to Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, France and Germany.
“Canada continues to call on China to immediately release both men and to grant clemency to all Canadians facing the death penalty in China. The minister also raised a number of areas of disagreement where Canada continues to make its positions very clear,” the statement read.
Wang said two countries have run into serious difficulties since Canada arbitrarily detained a Chinese citizen.
“The one who started the trouble should end the trouble,” he said in a statement issued by China’s Foreign Ministry.
“We hope the Canadian side will bear the gesture of a sovereign state and make a decision soon, getting rid of the main obstacle affecting the development of China-Canada ties.”
Without naming the citizen, Wang was apparently referring to Meng, who was detained in Vancouver in December 2018 and is awaiting extradition to the United States, which has targeted Huawei over perceived national security threats.
A Canadian Federal Court last week ruled against Meng, whose extradition trial is reportedly set for February, on her requests to see un-redacted documents from the Canadian spy agency related to her arrest.
China arrested Kovrig and Spavor shortly after Meng’s arrest. They were indicted in June for spying in China to obtain state secrets and intelligence.
Canada’s relationship with China has worsened following the reciprocal detentions, before it fell further after China imposed a national security law in Hong Kong, threatening freedoms and rights in the territory. Canada was among seven Western countries who subsequently suspended their extradition agreements with Hong Kong.