China’s ambassador to Canada has rejected Canada’s efforts to contrast the harsh conditions of his country’s detention of two Canadians with the relatively luxurious accommodations enjoyed by Huawei’s CFO, saying the Canadians haven’t been mistreated by Beijing whereas Meng Wanzhou has been unjustly incarcerated.
During a conversation with the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada on Tuesday, Cong Peiwu responded to the non-profit’s latest poll, which reveals a worsening Canadian public opinion toward China. It shows the average feeling has dipped to its lowest point in the past decade.
Mr. Cong said he realized a key factor affecting Canadian public views on China is the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. They were arrested in China days after Canada detained Ms. Meng at Vancouver International Airport on a U.S. extradition request on allegations of bank fraud relating to violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
But he said he thinks the main obstacle of the relations between the two countries is the Meng incident, a move initiated by the United States that he said was aimed at suppressing Huawei and China’s high-tech industry. He said Canada’s involvement shows it has been “misusing or abusing” its extradition treaty with the U.S.
Stewart Beck, president and chief executive officer at Asia Pacific Foundation and the moderator of the virtual conversation, said the detentions of the two Canadians and the Huawei chief financial officer aren’t the same because Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig are jailed while Ms. Meng is out on bail.
“It’s not quite the equivalent situation and it’s something that will always be of concern to Canadians,” Mr. Beck said.
Dec. 10 marked the two-year anniversary of the detention of Mr. Spavor, who ran a business connecting people with North Korea, and fellow Canadian Mr. Kovrig, a former diplomat working as a senior adviser for the International Crisis Group. This past June, they were formally charged with espionage although China has not disclosed any evidence against them. Ms. Meng, who was arrested nine days before them, is under partial house arrest at the larger of her two Vancouver mansions.
Mr. Cong argued the two events are different in nature because Ms. Meng is completely innocent and has not broken any Canadian law.
He said the two Canadians “have been left behind and prosecuted by the traditional organs of China, because they have been suspected of crimes endangering our national security in China.”
“Their lawful rights have been guaranteed,” Mr. Cong added. “Actually, in fact, they have been provided with adequate food and services, in terms of in this period of COVID-19, even the better food, to make sure that their immune system has been enhanced, so they can better deter the risk of being infected.”
Mr. Cong said the other cause of deteriorating regard for China among Canadians is biased Canadian reporting, saying many reporters in Canada haven’t been objective and truthful when it comes to China coverage.
“They tend to have this kind of reporting in the selective way or even the distorted way. They don’t report those true stories.”
Michael Kovrig has been in Chinese detention for 1,000 days since being detained in December 2018, and has been even more isolated since the coronavirus pandemic emerged in China. In June 2020, The Globe spoke with his wife Vina Nadjibulla, who is spearheading efforts to have Mr. Kovrig released and returned to Canada. Note: This video has been updated with the latest milestone of 1,000 days in detention.
The Globe and Mail
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