BEIJING (AP) – China said to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday that it would ‘stop making irresponsible remarks’ after saying Beijing’s decision to accuse two Canadians of espionage was linked to the arrest of a Chinese technical staff in its country.
The espionage charges are “completely different” from those of Huawei director Meng Wanzhou, a foreign ministry spokesman said. Meng was arrested on US charges for alleged violations of trade sanctions against Iran.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in what was widely considered an attempt at Canada following Meng’s arrest in Vancouver in December 2018. The charges against them were released on Friday after a Canadian judge ruled that Meng’s extradition case could proceed to the next stage, bringing her closer to the transfer to the US authorities.
Trudeau, speaking to reporters in Ottawa, said the Chinese authorities directly linked Kovrig and Spavor’s affairs with Meng. He called on Beijing to end their “arbitrary detention”.
“There is no such thing as arbitrary detention,” said ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
“China urges the relevant Canadian leader to seriously respect the spirit of the rule of law, respect China’s judicial sovereignty and stop making irresponsible comments,” Zhao said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the charges against Kovrig and Spavor Monday “politically motivated and completely unfounded.”
“The United States stands behind Canada and calls on Beijing for the immediate release of the two men and rejects the use of these unjustified detentions to compel Canada,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Trudeau thanked the United States and other allies for speaking out against China.
“It was clear from the start that this was a political decision by the Chinese government and we regret it,” Trudeau said Monday. “This use of arbitrary detention as a means of making political gains is completely unacceptable in a rule-based world.”
Meng, the financial director of Huawei Technologies Ltd. and the founder’s daughter is accused of lying to banks in Hong Kong about Huawei’s dealings with Iran over potential violations of U.S. sanctions.
Meng’s case is a “serious political incident” and is part of the US effort to “suppress Chinese high-tech companies and Huawei,” Zhao said. He said Canada “played the role of accomplice.”
“We strongly urge Canada to correct its mistakes as soon as possible, release Meng Wanzhou immediately and ensure her safe return home,” said Zhao.
Meng lives in a country house she owns in Vancouver, where she is said to be working on a graduate degree. Kovrig and Spavor are being held in a secret location and have had no access to lawyers or family members.
China has also sentenced two other Canadians to death and suspended imports of Canadian canola.
Zhao said visits from foreign diplomats to prisoners have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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