TORONTO (AP) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ruled on Thursday that he had released a Chinese CEO in an attempt to win the release of two Canadians detained by Beijing.
Trudeau said releasing Huawei Meng Wanzhou would tell China it can get what it wants by arresting Canadians. He said it would endanger more Canadian citizens by signaling that Canada can be intimidated.
“Arbitrarily arresting Canadians is not going to affect the government of Canada,” Trudeau said.
Meng, Huawei financial director and daughter of the company’s founder, was arrested by Canadian authorities at Vancouver airport in late 2018. The US wants her extradited against fraud and her arrest infuriates Beijing.
In a widely believed attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng, China arrested former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor and charged them with espionage.
“We regret what China has done by arbitrarily detaining the two Michaels, by directly linking those arrests,” said Trudeau.
A letter to Trudeau, signed by 19 former Canadian politicians and diplomats, calls for Meng’s release in an attempt to win the release of the detained Canadians. Signatories to the letter include former ministers of Trudeau’s Liberal party and former conservative minister Lawrence Cannon.
“I totally disagree with them,” said Trudeau. “We cannot allow political pressure or arbitrary arrests of Canadian citizens to affect the functioning of our legal system. So I respect these individuals, but they are wrong. ‘
Meng faces fraud in the United States, but denies allegations that she misrepresented the company’s relationship with Skycom Tech, putting HSBC banking company at risk of violating sanctions in Iran. Hearings in the extradition case have been adjourned until August 17.
“Canada has an independent judiciary, and those trials will unfold independently of political pressure, including from foreign governments,” Trudeau said.
Meng is out on bail and lives in her Vancouver home. Kovrig and Spavor are jailed, and Canadian diplomats have not been granted consular access since January.
China also imposed restrictions on several Canadian exports, including rapeseed and meat. In January, China also passed a death sentence against a convicted Canadian drug smuggler in a sudden retrial.
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