FILE – Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland speaks with media in Washington, D.C. on Friday, May 11, 2018. (Alex Panetta/The Canadian Press)

Canada to embark on campaign to win release of citizens

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland that the arrests constitute a worrying precedent

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Saturday that Canada will embark on a campaign to win the release of two citizens detained by China in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive.

Freeland said on a conference call with reporters that the arrests constitute a worrying precedent that has resonated with partners.

“We’re going to keep working with a broad group of allies to raise this issue,” she said, noting that Canadian ambassadors will be reaching out to governments across the world.

Freeland said she spoke with China’s ambassador to Ottawa on Friday and made Canada’s first demand for the immediate release of Canadian ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor. The U.S., the U.K. and the EU also issued statements in support of Canada.

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States, which wants her extradited to face charges that she and her company misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

READ MORE: Freeland demands China release detained Canadians

Nine days later, the Chinese detained Kovrig and Spavor on vague allegations of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China.

Freeland’s declarations mark a harsher tone from officials. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been criticized by the Opposition for his largely muted response and for not phoning his Chinese counterpart.

Freeland said that that Canada is honouring its extradition treaty with the United States and emphasized that Canada is a country based on the rule of law that has freed Meng on bail. “She has been given absolute access to due process and the independent Canadian judicial system,” Freeland said. “That is how Canada operates.”

On Friday, the U.S. State Department reiterated a call for the Canadians’ release made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement the U.K. is confident that Canada is respecting its extradition treaty with the U.S. and said he is “deeply concerned” that China may have detained the two Canadians for political reasons. The EU, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that the “declared motive” for their detention “raises concerns about legitimate research and business practices in China.”

Freeland thanked allies for speaking out.

The show of support from allies is significant for Canada, which has felt relatively isolated in recent months. In August, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador to the kingdom and withdrew its own ambassador after Canada’s foreign ministry tweeted support for an arrested Saudi activist.

The Saudis also sold Canadian investments and ordered their citizens studying in Canada to leave. No country, including the U.S., spoke out publicly in support of Canada.

Rob Gillies, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Duncan Lanes bowlers take on the best in B.C.

The best results for the Cowichan Valley bowlers came in the intermediate girls division

Sonia Furstenau column: Now the time to make changes for the better

This coronavirus has given us opportunity to identify what matters most in our day-to-day lives.

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Drivesmart column: Staying on your side of the road

No exemptions that grant permission to disobey the keeping to the right rule based on convenience.

Mary Lowther column: Starting seeds to beat the slugs, wood bugs

My favourite sorts of seedling starters are the plastic cells that fit inside trays

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Most Read