Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday May 24, 2019
If Trudeau called about detainees, Chinese president wouldn’t pick up: ex-ambassador
Former Canadian Ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques says he has “limited expectations” a Canadian delegation currently on the ground in China will successfully lead to the release of two detained Canadians.
During an interview on CTV’s Power Play on Tuesday, he said the group, which includes foreign affairs parliamentary secretary Rob Oliphant, won’t have a lot of power to make waves. But even if they did, it wouldn’t matter.
“Nobody in the Chinese government wants to meet with a Canadian minister or special envoy — even if the prime minister were to phone [Chinese] President Xi Jinping, he would not take the call,” Saint-Jacques said.
Last week Chinese officials formally arrested the two Canadians who have been detained since December 2018, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, on the suspicion of stealing state secrets for foreign power. The two men were detained after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver, following an extradition request from the United States.
Saint-Jacques even suggested that Xi would refuse a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the upcoming G20 meeting in Japan in June.
“But so far, the Chinese have been adamant that unless we promise to release [Meng], they don’t want to meet with anyone.”
Speaking with reporters after touring an aluminum plant in Quebec, Trudeau admitted Canada is in a “difficult situation with China” despite ongoing diplomatic efforts.
He said that Canadian officials continue to engage their Chinese counterparts, but criticized China for “making stronger moves” in an effort to “get its own way on the world stage.”
The prime minister said that Canada is still pushing for the release of the two men, who Trudeau described as being “arbitrarily detained for political reasons.”
Trudeau vowed that Canada is “going to continue to hold strong… to stand up for our values and our principles.”
There is a currently a parliamentary delegation in China discussing the detention of the two Canadians as part of their visit. (CTV)