Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canadian and Chinese officials are in contact even after China accused Canada of collaborating with the United States to mislead the world about the arrest of a Huawei executive in Vancouver and the subsequent detentions of two Canadians in China.
Ms. Freeland told reports on Friday in Toronto that the cases of the detained Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, are still at the “forefront” of Canada’s diplomatic discussions with China. The men were detained in December in apparent retaliation for the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver airport on an extradition request from the United States. China also subsequently banned imports of pork and beef from Canada and stopped buying Canadian canola seed and soybeans.
Ms. Freeland said she and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi agreed to keep diplomatic talks going when they met at a summit of Southeast Asian nations in Bangkok earlier this month.
“We agreed to keep the lines of communication open and we do continue at the officials level to have regular, even frequent contact, with Chinese officials, including in the past days and weeks. And so that continues but it is certainly the case that this a challenging moment in our relationship with China,” Ms. Freeland said during a research-funding announcement at the University of Toronto.
Canada-China tensions heightened last week after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Ottawa. Mr. Pompeo said China wants to connect the arrest of Ms. Meng with the detentions of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor, arguing "they want to talk about these two as if they are equivalent, as if they’re morally similar, which they fundamentally are not.”
China’s top Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, shot back the day after Mr. Pompeo’s visit, accusing Canada and the United States of “singing a duet aimed at confusing right and wrong in a political farce.” He claimed that China holds the moral high ground in this case, alleging that Ottawa and Washington’s collaboration in arresting Ms. Meng should be considered suspect.
Ms. Freeland said Canada is grateful to the “large number of our allies," including the U.S., Britain and Germany, who have publicly reiterated their support for Canada’s efforts to secure the release of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor and raised their detentions in meetings with China.