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.

Just Posted

SOWK MP unsurprised by Scheer resignation

“It’s a very tough job being a leader of a party, and we thanked him for that service,” - MP Cannings

Promoter fundraises for new Kootenay Country Music Fest

Travis Pangburn seeks $150,000 through Gofundme campaign to re-launch event

Kaslo commits to 100 per cent renewable energy plan

Nine local governments have made the pledge this year

Storm prompts travel warning for Boundary, West Kootenay

Up to 25 cm expected on high mountain passes

RED Mountain resort delays opening day

Lack of snow puts damper on start of season

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

‘British Columbians are paying too much’: Eby directs ICBC to delay rate application

Attorney General David Eby calls for delay in order to see how two reforms play out

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

Owner surrenders dogs chained up outside among scrap metal, garbage to BC SPCA

Shepherd-breed dogs were living in ‘deplorable conditions.’

B.C. plane crash victim identified; witnesses describe ‘explosion’

He was a flight instructor, charter pilot and owned an airstrip before leaving Alberta

Most Read