China uses arbitrary detentions as ‘tool’ to achieve ‘political goals’: Trudeau

OTTAWA — China uses arbitrary detentions as a tool to achieve its international and domestic political goals, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.

He called that a pressure tactic that is worrying not only to Canada, but to its western allies.

Trudeau offered that assessment during a meeting with the editorial board of the Toronto Star, where he was asked to respond to the latest upbraiding of Canada by the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry.

Asked earlier about Trudeau’s appointment of business consultant Dominic Barton as Canada’s new ambassador to China, spokesman Geng Shuang said Canada needs to reflect on its “mistakes” and immediately release Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested on a U.S. extradition request.

“We look forward to his positive efforts to help bring China-Canada relations onto the right track,” Geng said in translated remarks posted on his ministry’s website.

“Lately China-Canada relations have encountered serious difficulties. The responsibility lies completely with the Canadian side, and Canada knows the root cause clearly. We urge the Canadian side to reflect upon its wrongdoing, take China’s solemn position and concerns seriously, immediately release Ms. Meng Wanzhou and ensure her safe return to China.”

China has imprisoned two Canadian men, ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, on suspicion of spying in what is widely viewed as retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

“Using arbitrary detention as a tool to achieve political goals, international or domestic, is something that is of concern not just to Canada but to all our allies, who have been highlighting that this is not acceptable behaviour in the international community because they are all worried about China engaging in the same kinds of pressure tactics with them,” Trudeau said at the end of a meeting with Toronto Star journalists, which was livestreamed.

Trudeau said he doesn’t want to escalate tensions with China, and noted Beijing gave speedy approval to Canada’s request to appoint Barton as its ambassador.

Trudeau and his cabinet ministers have routinely branded Kovrig’s and Spavor’s incarcerations as arbitrary, and have marshalled broad international support from several dozen countries, including the United States. That coalition building has angered China, which has banned imports of Canadian canola and blocked other agricultural products.

Trudeau said Canada has no choice but to engage economically with China because it is the world’s second-largest economy but has to be “clear-eyed” about that.

“China plays by a very different set of rules and principles than we do in the west. And making sure that we are able to make those points clearly and forcefully and as much as possible constructively is going to be really important,” the prime minister said.

“We are engaged very strongly in the issue of Canadians, in the issue of the canola and the beef and pork issues, but we are engaged in a substantive way that highlights to the Chinese government that we are concerned about their behaviour,” he added.

“We’re very concerned about the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong right now, but we are going to attempt to be constructive in ways that end up being good for Canadians and ultimately, hopefully, good for the Chinese people.”

Trudeau China

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

Just Posted

Still no mandatory masks in Red Deer

While a growing number of Alberta communities have made masks mandatory, the… Continue reading

Maskwacis teen charged in 10-year-old boy’s death

The RCMP Major Crimes Unit have laid a manslaughter charge against a 13-year-old boy from Maskwacis.

134 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday

First day over 100 cases since July 31

Red Deer asking for feedback on new transit routes

The new routes will begin Aug. 23

Rainbow flag raised at Red Deer College to kick off Pride Week

Central Alberta Pride Week runs next week

Protestors for Indigenous Lives Matter gather in Wetaskiwin

Protestors gathered along 56 St Wetaskiwin, Alta. August 4, 2020 for Indigenous Lives Matter.

Cast your votes for Best of Red Deer

The Advocate’s Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are back. Community… Continue reading

Colorado prison escapee caught after nearly 50 years on run

Colorado prison escapee caught after nearly 50 years on run

Liberty University’s Falwell taking leave of absence

Liberty University’s Falwell taking leave of absence

Officials long warned of explosive chemicals at Beirut port

Officials long warned of explosive chemicals at Beirut port

US intel: Russia acting against Biden; China opposes Trump

US intel: Russia acting against Biden; China opposes Trump

Grant Oh wins Alberta Senior Championship in Olds

In the end, Calgary’s Grant Oh pulled away from the pack in… Continue reading

Religious freedom in America: popular and polarizing

Religious freedom in America: popular and polarizing

In Canadian libraries, the era of late fees may be headed to history books

HALIFAX — The era of the stern Canadian librarian peering at a… Continue reading

Most Read