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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang speaks during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office, in Beijing, in a Nov. 28, 2019, file photo.

The Associated Press

The Chinese government expressed no confidence in Canada’s courts, hours before an extradition hearing in Vancouver for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Instead, the Chinese foreign ministry on Monday called on Canadian authorities to immediately set free Ms. Meng, who was arrested Dec. 1, 2018, and is accused in the United States of fraud related to violations of sanctions against Iran.

”We urge the Canadian government again to take China’s stance and concerns seriously, take tangible action to correct its mistakes, release Ms. Meng without further delay and ensure her safe return to China,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Monday.

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Asked twice if China has confidence in the fairness of Canadian courts, Mr. Geng said the case against Ms. Meng is “a serious political incident” that involved the U.S. and Canada abusing their extradition process and “wantonly” detaining a Chinese citizen.

This week’s hearing for Ms. Meng is expected to extend five days, and examine issues of “double criminality,” which involves determining whether her alleged misconduct would be considered criminal in Canada. Her lawyers argue that because the alleged offence is related to U.S. sanctions against Iran, Ms. Meng should be released.

The Chinese government has taken a harder line on the case of Ms. Meng than Huawei, the technology giant whose founder Ren Zhengfei is Ms. Meng’s father.

“Huawei has trust in Canada’s legal process,” spokesman Joe Kelly said in a statement. “Meng Wanzhou’s legal team will continue to defend her within the law and to challenge issues around double criminality and the abuse of process claims that have already been discussed in court.”

The arrest of Ms. Meng, and the subsequent arrest in China of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, has soured relations between Ottawa and Beijing, damaging trade and raising new fears of “hostage diplomacy.”

At the same time, there have been signs that Beijing is not keen to further escalate the conflict with Ottawa. China has resumed imports of Canadian pork and beef, and Chinese media have devoted virtually no coverage to the upcoming extradition proceeding this week.

One two-paragraph report by state broadcaster CCTV explained that the hearing would take place. Another by China News Service cited Ms. Meng’s defence lawyers as saying she should be released if the Canadian court finds in her favour.

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Indeed, Mr. Geng on Monday made clear that the Chinese government has not changed its view.

“With regard to Meng’s case,” he said, ”China’s stance has always remained the same.”

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