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

Point-guard lobs no-look, three-pointer for Oak Bay High video

Trick-shot only took three times, says Oak Bay teen

Phase-by-phase look at how Greater Victoria Public Libraries will reopen

GVPL to quarantine returned material for a minimum of 72 hours before lending again

Saanich residents sound alarm after second owl dies of rat poison

Great Horned Owl found in Kings Park killed by three rodenticides

Langford pitches Westhills as Canadian Premier League soccer hub

Langford could host all eight teams for August matches

Cancelled cruise ships costs Victoria more than $130 million

Transport Canada bans ships until end of October in response to COVID-19

VIDEO: Victoria dental staff dance to *NSYNC to promote reopening

Urban Smiles staff ‘want you back’ after closure in response to pandemic

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

B.C. aquaculture farm’s employees sweat it out to raise funds for food banks

For every five minutes of exercise recorded, Cermaq Canada is donating a dollar to local food banks in communities they operate

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Most Read