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Politics China accuses Canada and U.S. of ‘singing a duet’ to confuse world over Meng and Canadian detainees

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau centre, with Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, right, meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Aug. 22, 2019, in Ottawa.

SEBASTIEN ST-JEAN/AFP/Getty Images

The Chinese government has accused U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of collaborating with Canada to mislead the world about why Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested and what prompted Beijing to detain two Canadians shortly afterward.

China’s top Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, spoke out the day after Mr. Pompeo, during a Canadian visit, warned against making a moral equivalence between Canada’s detention of Ms. Meng on a U.S. extradition order and Beijing’s actions. China subsequently accused Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor of espionage and formally arrested them, banned imports of pork and beef from Canada and stopped buying Canadian canola seed and soybeans.

Mr. Pompeo, speaking to media after meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Thursday, twice pushed back against what he considered questions that implied there was no difference between Ms. Meng’s arrest in Vancouver and China’s apparent backlash, including the arrests of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor.

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Connecting the two is “what China wants to talk about,” he said. “They want to talk about these two as if they are equivalent, as if they’re morally similar, which they fundamentally are not.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry shot back on Friday, accusing the United States of distorting the facts.

“The U.S. and Canada are singing a duet aimed at confusing right and wrong in a political farce,” Mr. Geng said. “This is further proof to the very political nature of this incident.”

In fact, he said, China holds the moral high ground in this case, alleging that Ottawa and Washington’s collaboration in arresting Ms. Meng should be considered suspect. “People can tell justice from injustice. The U.S. choreographed the entire incident involving Ms. Meng Wanzhou and resorted to state power to suppress Chinese high-tech companies,” Mr. Geng said. “Canada played a disgraceful role in this process.”

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said Mr. Pompeo’s comments appear to have hit a nerve with the Chinese government because the language of its response is more over-the-top than normal.

“Secretary Pompeo actually did a very good job of explaining the extent to which the detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are simply retaliatory in nature and in no way similar to the process that Ms. Meng is experiencing, as she and her high-priced team of lawyers make use of the many protections provided by the Canadian legal system,” Mr. Mulroney said.

“An analysis this stark, coming from such a senior source, is infuriating and highly embarrassing to Beijing, provoking higher-than-normal levels of hyperbole.”

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Mr. Geng’s statements mirror the legal arguments Ms. Meng’s legal team is deploying in Canada, where they have argued Washington is attempting to use her extradition proceedings for economic and political gain.

The United States alleges Ms. Meng helped her company violate U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. She has been charged in the U.S. with bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.

Ms. Meng is free on $10-million bail while she awaits an extradition trial set to begin in early 2020. She is living in one of her multimillion-dollar homes in Vancouver but must wear an electronic tracking device and is being monitored by a security company.

Mr. Geng said that when it comes to the two Canadians – whose case Robert Oliphant, Canada’s parliamentary secretary to the Foreign Affairs Minister, has called “targeted abductions” – China did nothing wrong.

“Michael Kovrig was arrested for suspected crimes in secretly gathering state secrets and intelligence for foreign forces, and Michael Spavor for stealing and illegally providing state secrets to foreign forces. Their arrests were made by competent Chinese authority in accordance with law,” he said.

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