Canada’s ambassador to China has visited two Canadian detained for nearly two years in an apparent retaliation for the arrest of an executive of Chinese technology giant Huawei on a U.S. extradition warrant.
Global Affairs Canada says in a news release that Ambassador Dominic Barton was granted on-site virtual consular access to Michael Kovrig on Thursday and businessman Michael Spavor on Nov. 10.
The federal government says no further information can be disclosed about the meetings.
The pair have been held in China since December 2018, soon after Canada detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the company’s founder. It was only their third consular visit this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Canadian government says it remains deeply concerned by the “arbitrary detention” of Kovrig and Spavor and continues to call for their immediate release.
Canada has accused China of arresting the men to pressure it into releasing Meng, who is under house arrest in Vancouver while she challenges a U.S. extradition order to face fraud charges related to trade sanctions on Iran.
China says Canada has no right to hold Meng, and says Kovrig and Spavor are suspected of national security crimes.
China also blames the Trump administration for trying to undermine Huawei by targeting Meng, which has left Canada in the middle of a trade war between the world’s two major economic powers.
The U.S. says Huawei is an espionage arm of the Chinese military and has urged Canada and Western allies not to use its technology, but the company rejects that accusation.
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Canada was trying to shirk its responsibility in the Meng case by attempting to “hide the truth and mislead public opinion.”
“Once again, we urge the Canadian side to meet China halfway, correct the mistake and resolve the issue of Meng Wanzhou in a proper way immediately,” Zhao said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently referred to China’s actions as “coercive diplomacy” and spoke with U.S. president-elect Joe Biden about working together to resolve the issue.
Meanwhile, Opposition parties in Canada have also insisted that the Liberal government take a harder line against what it says are national-security threats from China.
A motion, sponsored by Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong, passed Wednesday by 179 votes to 146 and calls on the government to decide within 30 days whether to allow China’s Huawei Technologies to supply equipment for Canada’s next generation 5G wireless networks.
It also calls on the government to table a plan within 30 days to deal with growing intimidation by China of Canadians within Canada’s borders.
The motion says Canada needs to “develop a robust plan, as Australia has done, to combat China’s growing foreign operations here in Canada and its increasing intimidation of Canadians living in Canada, and table it within 30 days of the adoption of this motion.”
The Liberal government has delayed deciding on which companies can supply equipment for providers of 5G networks.
–With files from The Associated Press
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