Canada Presses China on ‘Arbitrary’ Detention of Citizens – Smart Media Magazine

Canada Presses China on ‘Arbitrary’ Detention of Citizens

TORONTO — Canada tried to turn up pressure on China on Saturday over the detention of two Canadians caught up in a struggle between global superpowers, with its foreign minister calling their imprisonment “arbitrary” and “a precedent that is worrying not only for Canada but for the world.”

China seized the two Canadians, the former diplomat Michael Kovrig and the entrepreneur and writer Michael Spavor, shortly after Canada detained a Chinese telecommunications executive at the behest of the United States. The detentions of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor have rattled Canadians, many of whom do business and have family in China, and the government stressed that it was working feverishly for their release.

“We also believe this is not only a Canadian issue,” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a conference call on Saturday. “It is an issue that concerns our allies.”

Canada is in a tricky spot, boxed in between its two largest trading partners and worried about having to choose sides. After feeling burned by negotiations to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, the country is trying to strengthen trade relations with China to lessen dependence on economic ties to the United States.

Ms. Freeland said Chinese officials had not made that direct connection.

“It would, of course, be highly inappropriate for there to be any connection,” she said in the conference call. But she also painted a sharp contrast between Ms. Meng’s legal protections in Canada and the secretive arrests of the Canadians in China.

“Canada has been behaving scrupulously,” Ms. Freeland said. “Ms. Meng has been given absolute access to due process.”

But China has cast Ms. Meng as the victim of human rights abuses.

“I wonder if, when Canada illegally detained a Chinese citizen at the behest of the United States, you were concerned about her treatment and rights,” Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters on Friday.

Complicating the situation, President Trump mused in an interview that he might intervene in Ms. Meng’s case, if it would result in trade concessions from China.

Ms. Freeland insisted politics were not involved.

“As we’ve made very clear in the case of Ms. Meng, the issue is Canada abiding by its extradition treaty commitments and following rule-of-law procedures,” she said. “We’ve also made clear a number of times that Canada does not believe it is appropriate to use extradition proceedings for any sort of politicized end.”

In the past week, a third Canadian was detained by the police in China, on accusations of working illegally in the country. Canadian officials have not considered the detention in the same light, and Ms. Freeland did not mention the case on Saturday.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told reporters that the third Canadian, Sarah Donata McIver, a teacher from Alberta, was under administrative detention for working illegally in China.

That’s a kind of punishment that the police can impose in cases that fall short of criminal charges. Ms. Hua didn’t say how long that detention would last, but in the normal run of such cases it would be up to 15 days.

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