BEIJING (AP) – China told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday to â€œstop making irresponsible remarksâ€ after he said Beijing’s decision to charge two Canadians with spying was linked to his country’s arrest of a Chinese tech executive.
The spying charges are â€œcompletely differentâ€ from the case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, a foreign ministry spokesman said. Meng was arrested on U.S. charges connected to possible violations of trade sanctions on Iran.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in what was widely seen as an attempt to Canada after Meng’s December 2018 arrest in Vancouver. Charges against them were announced Friday after a Canadian judge ruled Meng’s extradition case can proceed to its next stage, moving her closer to being handed over to American authorities.
Trudeau, speaking to reporters in Ottawa, said Chinese authorities â€œdirectly linkedâ€ the cases of Kovrig and Spavor with Meng. He called on Beijing to end their â€œarbitrary detention.â€
â€œThere is no such thing as arbitrary detention,â€ said the ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian.
â€œChina urges the relevant Canadian leader to earnestly respect the spirit of the rule of law, respect Chinaâ€™s judicial sovereignty and stop making irresponsible remarks,” Zhao said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday called the charges against Kovrig and Spavor â€œpolitically motivated and completely groundless.”
â€œThe United States stands with Canada in calling on Beijing for the immediate release of the two men and rejects the use of these unjustified detentions to coerce Canada,â€ Pompeo said in a statement.
Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Ltd. and the daughter of its founder, is accused of lying to banks in Hong Kong about Huaweiâ€™s dealings with Iran in possible violation of U.S. sanctions.
Mengâ€™s case is a â€œseriously political incidentâ€ and part of U.S. efforts to â€œsuppress Chinese high-tech enterprises and Huawei,â€ Zhao said. He said Canada â€œplayed the role of an accomplice.â€
â€œWe strongly urge Canada to correct its mistakes as soon as possible, immediately release Meng Wanzhou and ensure her safe return to home,â€ said Zhao.
Meng is living in a mansion she owns in Vancouver, where she reportedly is working on a graduate degree. Kovrig and Spavor are being held at an undisclosed location and have been denied access to lawyers or family members.
China has also sentenced two other Canadians to death and suspended imports of Canadian canola.
Zhao said visits by foreign diplomats to prisoners were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.