Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday blasted China’s detention of two Canadians for “political ends,” following charges against them for spying.
His comments came after China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate on Friday said it had begun the prosecution of ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, who were “suspected of foreign espionage” and “providing state secrets.
18 months after their arrest in a spat between the two countries, came just weeks after a Canadian judge ruled that proceedings to extradite Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou to the United States will go ahead.
Relations between Canada and China have hit rock bottom over the arrests.
On Monday, during his daily briefing, PM Trudeau said, “This arbitrary detention of Canadian citizens is unacceptable and deeply concerning, not just to Canadians but to people around the world who see China using arbitrary detentions as a means to political ends.”
Trudeau also said “we deplore… a political decision made by the Chinese government” which continues to pressure Canada.
Last week, Trudeau said that he was “disappointed” that the Canadians were formally charged with spying.
Meanwhile, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, the EU and others have also pressed China over the detention of the Canadians.
Trudeau thanked allies for speaking up against Beijing’s use of what observers have described as “hostage diplomacy.”
The Prime Minister said, “Our allies around the world”, adding that “are extremely concerned about the plight of Canadians because they know very well that it may one day be their turn.”
In 2019, Trudeau had sought and accepted the resignation of Ottawa’s ambassador to China, days after the diplomat sparked controversy with criticism of the US extradition request for a top Huawei executive.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also expressed his anger and said US was “extremely concerned” and that the two men’s detention was unjustified.
“These charges are politically motivated and completely groundless,” the Secretary of State said in a statement.
In 2018, Kovrig and Spavor were detained nine days after Meng was arrested in Canada on a US warrant.
The United States wants to try her on fraud charges related to the Chinese telecom giant’s alleged violations of US sanctions against Iran.
(With inputs from agency)