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China’s ambassador to Canada says Beijing is “saddened” that diplomatic relations are at a “freezing point” and called on Ottawa to take steps to repair the damage by allowing a detained senior Huawei executive to return to China.

Ambassador Lu Shaye told The Globe and Mail on Thursday that the Canadian arrest of chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.’s founder, is a “political issue” and not one that should be left to the courts.

“It is from the very beginning that the Chinese position has been clear and persistent that the Canadian side should release Madam Meng and let her come back to China safely,” he said after a speech on Canada-China relations sponsored by BMO Financial Group and The Globe and Mail.

In his speech, the Chinese envoy made it clear that diplomatic relations would not improve until Ms. Meng, who is under house arrest in Vancouver, is free to return home.

“It saddens us that the current China-Canada relations are at a freezing point and face huge difficulties,” Mr. Lu said. “The knots shall be untied by those who got them tied.”

Canada arrested Ms. Meng at the request of U.S. law enforcement officials who want her extradited on fraud charges related to U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Beijing has demanded Ms. Meng’s immediate release and responded to Ottawa’s refusal to do so by arresting two Canadians – Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig – on allegations of national security violations and banned imports of Canadian canola and other farm products.

Mr. Lu said Ottawa must respect “China’s major concerns and stop the moves that undermine the interests of China.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the detention of Ms. Meng, who is out on bail and living in her Vancouver mansion, must be left to the Canadian judicial system. The extradition case could take years to resolve in Canadian courts.

The envoy also said the push by the United States and other allies to ban Huawei from next-generation 5G networks is an effort to constrain China’s advancement and a manifestation of Western arrogance. Ottawa is facing U.S. government and congressional pressure to join Washington in blacklisting China’s Huawei from 5G.

Canada and Britain are conducting cybersecurity reviews on the risks of 5G networks before making a decision, while the U.S. and Australia, also members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, have blacklisted the Chinese telecom. New Zealand has also rejected a request by a domestic wireless provider to install Chinese 5G.

Huawei – which has grown quickly to become the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer – is at the centre of a battle between Washington and Beijing over what the Trump administration says is an effort by China to use its tech companies to expand its geopolitical reach.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that Huawei was a “very dangerous” company, but that he might nonetheless negotiate his ban on the company as part of a trade deal with China.

“Huawei is something that’s very dangerous,” he said at a White House announcement of government aid for farmers hurt by his trade war with China. “From a security standpoint, from a military standpoint, it’s very dangerous.”

Then Mr. Trump said he may put his anti-Huawei action on the table in talks.

“It’s possible that Huawei would be included in a trade deal. If we made a deal, I can imagine Huawei being included in some form or some part of a trade deal,” he said.

Mr. Lu, one of China’s most outspoken envoys to Canada in recent years, used most of his speech to denounce the West for arrogance and egotism. He claimed the “Chinese nation does not have the gene of aggression” and vehemently denied that Beijing mistreats Uyghurs, a largely Muslim minority, in vast detention centres.

He argued that Western concerns about China’s growing economic and military power are unfounded, including the building of islands in the disputed South China Sea for military purposes.

Mr. Lu strongly defended China’s establishment of enormous camps to house Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province and its use of leading-edge surveillance technology such as facial recognition and biometrics to monitor them.

He said the camps were “vocational education and training centres” to combat extremism.

“China’s establishment of these centres is meant to help these people who have been ‘brainwashed’ by the extremist thoughts of violence and terrorism to get rid of those thoughts and learn work and living skills, which get instant results," he said.

There has not been any violence in Xinjiang since the camps have been built, Mr. Lu said.

Human-rights organizations report torture, starvation and unexplained deaths in the camps, which U.S. officials estimate hold between 800,000 and three million Muslims.

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China who spoke before Mr. Lu on Thursday, said the scale of Beijing’s conduct in Xinjiang dwarfs human-rights abuses anywhere else.

“What’s happening … is probably the largest, most significant, most worrying human-rights abuse we face in the world [now]," he said. “In numbers it has rarely been equalled. In scope and highly sophisticated use of technology, it has rarely been equalled and is something we need to speak out about.”

Mr. Mulroney added: “I don’t like to throw this term around but by some definitions, some of what’s happening, certainly in terms of erasing cultural heritage, is close to the classic definition of genocide.”

Mr. Lu reminded his audience of China’s 5,000-year history and how badly it was treated by Western powers until the Communists won power in 1949.

In the past 30 years, China has rapidly developed its economy and he said that is a threat to the West, which can’t fathom that the Asian country has become the world’s second largest economy and is soon to become the No. 1.

“Western countries’ psychological imbalance towards China’s economic and technological development comes down to the West-egotism. They always believe they are superior to any other nation,” he said. “The West cannot narrowly believe that they will take the lead forever while ignoring other nations’ rights to subsistence and development and even depriving them of it through improper means."

With a report from Adrian Morrow

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