China plays by a different set of rules, using detentions of foreign citizens as a “tool” to achieve their political goals, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.
Trudeau was referring to the imprisonment of two Canadians -- ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor -- on spying charges in a move seen as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou last December.
He said the Chinese are trying to pressure Canada into releasing Meng, who is under house arrest in Vancouver pending an extradition hearing.
That should be of concern to all Canada’s western allies, Trudeau said.
"Using arbitrary detention as a tool to achieve political goals, international or domestic, is something that is of concern not just to Canada but to all our allies, who have been highlighting that this is not acceptable behaviour in the international community because they are all worried about China engaging in the same kinds of pressure tactics with them," Trudeau said, talking to reporters in Toronto.
Since Meng’s arrest at the behest of the Americans who want her to stand trial for contravening U.S. sanctions against Iran, China arrested the two Canadians. As well, Beijing has banned imports of Canadian canola, blocked beef and pork products, and cut imports of peas and soybeans.
The cuts have financially hurt the Canadian farming industry.
China demanded Meng’s immediate release but Canada has stood firm and was quick to criticize China for its actions against citizens in Hong Kong, where heated demonstrations against mainland rule are an everyday occurrence. About 300,000 Canadians live in the city.
In fact, neither side has shown signs of backing down in the Meng dispute.
"China plays by a very different set of rules and principles than we do in the west. And making sure that we are able to make those points clearly and forcefully and as much as possible constructively is going to be really important," the prime minister said.
This week, Canada appointed a new ambassador to China, Dominic Barton.
The Chinese used the opportunity to say that the new ambassador could help restore China-Canada relations, and then once again lambasted Canada.
"Lately China-Canada relations have encountered serious difficulties,” Chinese foreign minister spokesman Gen Shuang said on his ministry’s website.
"The responsibility lies completely with the Canadian side, and Canada knows the root cause clearly. We urge the Canadian side to reflect upon its wrongdoing, take China's solemn position and concerns seriously, immediately release Ms. Meng Wanzhou and ensure her safe return to China."
By Barry Ellsworth in Canada