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Undated family handout photo of Amy Chang, left, her father John Chang and mother Allison Lu.

Family handout

The daughter of two Canadian winery owners who face a criminal trial on Friday in Shanghai for allegedly failing to pay sufficient duties on shipments to China is pleading for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to intervene.

Amy Chang says the Chinese government has criminalized a commercial dispute and that her parents' treatment over the past 14 months should serve as a warning to people looking to do business in China, particularly because Mr. Trudeau's government is trying to kick-start negotiations on a trade deal with Beijing.

"A lot of people are going to be importing and exporting into China," said Ms. Chang, 23. "People are going to be travelling to China. You can't have this happen to Canadian citizens when they have done nothing wrong."

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Read more: Canadian winery owners face closed trial in China

Read more: Shuanggui: The harsh, hidden side of China's war on graft, and how one man disappeared into it

She is travelling to Ottawa next week to try to meet with Mr. Trudeau, who returns from a European trip on May 31.

In March, 2016, Chinese authorities arrested Ms. Chang's parents, John Chang and Allison Lu, as they checked out of a Shanghai hotel during a business trip to China. The couple, who were born in Taiwan, were travelling on Canadian passports.

Mr. Chang has been incarcerated with no direct access to his family. Ms. Lu was also jailed, but released in January, 2017, on the condition she not leave China. Authorities confiscated her Canadian passport and she must report regularly to the state.

Mr. Chang and Ms. Lu, who own two wineries in British Columbia and one in Ontario, will face a closed-door trial at the Shanghai High People's Court on May 26 for what their lawyers say are trumped-up charges of smuggling.

"I really need Prime Minister Trudeau to help the situation," Ms. Chang said. "My parents have been detained for over a year and nothing has happened.

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"This really needs his attention. It's been far too long that this has been ignored."

China's legal system has a conviction rate of 99.6 per cent, and the couple's family fears Mr. Chang and Ms. Lu could receive lengthy prison sentences.

The Chinese government accuses Mr. Chang and Ms. Lu of under-reporting the value of their wine shipments to China and consequently of underpaying the full duties owed. Their Lulu Island Winery in Richmond, B.C., is also named in the charges, and denies both allegations. Lulu Island said it has receipts from the Chinese customs authority that back up the couple's claims of innocence.

Ms. Chang said she recently met with John McCallum, a former member of the Trudeau cabinet who is Canada's new ambassador to China. He said he would look into the matter.

Management of the Chang family's wineries has fallen to Ms. Chang, who graduated from university with a business degree the year before the couple was detained.

Ms. Chang was in China on a business trip in March, 2016, when she received news her parents had been arrested. She quickly booked the next possible flight to Taiwan to avoid being taken into custody herself. "I wasn't calm until the plane landed in Taiwan."

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She said her father has two tumours and has lost more than 13.6 kilograms while incarcerated.

Mr. Chang had built a name for himself and his winery business in Canada. He regularly accompanied Canadian government officials on trade missions to China, and during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the premises of Lulu Island Winery were designated as "China House," the place where Chinese athletes, coaches and officials could unwind after competition.

In 2015, he was named an RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant award winner.

The Prime Minister's Office declined to say on Wednesday whether Mr. Trudeau will meet with Ms. Chang or intervene on her parents' behalf. A spokesman passed the questions on to the office of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. A Global Affairs spokesman later said the department is closely following the case of Mr. Chang and Ms. Lu. "We have raised our concerns at a high level with Chinese authorities."

Lulu Island Winery exported wines to China for six years before the 2016 arrests. The winery said it employs professional import agents licensed by the Chinese customs authority and uses the same valuation methods as wines imported from other nations, including the United States, France and Australia. Lulu Island Winery said the average declared value of its products has "consistently been higher than the average value of all foreign wines shipped into China."

Mr. Chang's lawyers say the decision to "unilaterally jail the owners of a Canadian business … on a mere allegation of non-compliance with customs valuation rules is a gross violation of personal liberty and security."

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The Chinese embassy in Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chinese-Canadian Jean Zou has been working to appeal her husband Wilson Wang's prison sentence in China after he was convicted of bribery charges. Zou says Wang was put into the shuanggui system of interrogation while in detention.
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