Canada demands China immediately release citizens detained in ‘retaliation’ arrests

Saul Bowman
December 25, 2018

"Canada is conducting a fair, unbiased and transparent legal proceeding with respect to Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's Chief Financial Officer", the Canadian MFA's statement reads.

"We've been discussing it very actively with our allies and partners around the world", Canadian foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Saturday.

"Nice and polite has its time and place for sure", said Peter Dahlin, a Swedish human rights worker who was held captive in China for three weeks in 2016 over allegations of violating national security.

"I wish to express Canada's appreciation to those who have spoken recently in support of the rule of law as fundamental to free societies", Freeland's statement concluded.

Washington accused Meng, who is also the daughter of Huawei's founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei, of lying to US financial institutions and using a shell company to do business with Iran in violation of USA sanctions.

US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino reiterated that Canada is honoring its extradition treaty commitments.

"Canada is a country governed by the rule of law", Freeland said.

Canada arrested Meng at the request of the United States, which is engaged in a trade war with China.

Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing who has been a China analyst for the International Crisis Group think-thank for the last two years, and Michael Spavor, who lives in Dandong and promotes exchanges with North Korea, were both detained December 10 on suspicion of endangering China's national security.

"With regards to Ms. Meng, we do think it's important to explain to the Chinese authorities, to the Chinese public, that Canada has been behaving scrupulously as a rule-of-law state", Ms. Freeland said. "This is about the rule of law".

Speaking on background, officials said that given that tens of thousands of Canadians travel to China every year for tourism, work and study, there is nothing unusual in the number of detentions.

FILE - In this September 25, 2018 file photo, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland participates in a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations in NY.

The US, the United Kingdom and the European Union also issued statements in support of Canada, which has abandoned previous diplomatic caution to demand the men are freed.

In an opinion piece submitted to the Post, Dahlin wrote that the detentions present an opportunity for Canada and its allies to present a strong, united front.

A third Canadian, Sarah McIver, was arrested on Thursday for "working illegally" in the country. Canada only gained consular access to him at a police station on Friday last week, when he was visited for half an hour by the Canadian ambassador and two other Canadian diplomats, the sources said.

Kovrig is a senior advisor at the International Crisis Group think tank, while Spavor facilitates trips to North Korea, including visits by former National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman.

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