The United States and Canada promised a fair judicial process for a Chinese tech executive who was arrested earlier this month in Canada.
In talks at the State Department on Friday, the U.S. and Canadian foreign and defense ministers put on a united front, following a growing diplomatic dispute between the United States and China, in which Canada finds itself in the middle.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland defended her country’s detention of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, saying it was “not a political decision,” but “a matter of following the rules.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was also “respecting the rule of law each step along the way” as it seeks Meng.
Canada arrested Meng at the request of the United States, which says Huawei violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. She has been released on bail and is awaiting possible extradition to the United States.
Disagreement with Trump
Freeland implicitly pushed back against recent comments by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said the case could be used as part of wider trade negotiations with Beijing.
“It is also very important for Canada that extradition agreements are not to be used for political purposes,” she said. “Canada does not do it that way and I believe it is obvious that democratic countries, such as our partners in the United States, do the same.”
Freeland also said she was extremely concerned about the fate of two Canadians — businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig — who were detained in China this week, in what is widely seen as a case of retaliation against Canada’s detention of Meng.
“For me and the prime minister, there are no issues that touch us more personally and immediately than the detention of Canadians outside our country,” Freeland said, adding, “This is a huge priority for our government.”
Canadians ‘ought to be returned’
Secretary of State Pompeo called China’s detention of the Canadian citizens “unacceptable” and said that they “ought to be returned.”
China’s foreign ministry says the Canadian citizens are each being investigated on suspicion of violating China’s national security laws. Analysts and rights groups have called those laws powerful and vague.
In a statement Saturday, the International Crisis Group called for the immediate release of Kovrig, who is their senior expert for North East Asia, based in Hong Kong. The group said Kovrig had always worked transparently and constructively with Chinese authorities.
“The real danger to China comes from Michael’s arbitrary arrest and detention, for these will have a chilling effect on people wanting to visit and engage with the country,” said Crisis Group president and CEO Robert Malley.
The statement also noted that since Kovrig had been a Canadian diplomat in China between 2014 and 2016, “diplomatic missions around the globe should be concerned by the suggestion that normal diplomatic work could be grounds for future detention.
Canada’s Foreign Ministry said Canadian officials were granted consular access Friday to one of the detainees and they are still trying to contact the second. The Crisis Group confirmed that the Canadian ambassador in Beijing has been able to visit Kovrig. (VOA)