More than seven months after the arbitrary arrest of two Canadians in China, Canada finally obtained a meeting at the political level to discuss the case. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was able to meet with her counterpart Wang Yi on Friday, but she refuses to provide details on how the meeting will be conducted.
“I also had a bilateral meeting with Wang Yi, the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs,” Freeland said during a conference call on Friday morning. She was in Bangkok for a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“I took this opportunity to express Canada’s concerns about the cases of Michael Kovrig and Michal Spavor, arbitrarily detained in China. Minister Wang expressed his concerns about the extradition process for Weng Manzhou. We exchanged views on issues of importance to both our countries. We agreed to continue the discussions. »
The two Canadians, a former diplomat and a businessman, were arrested last December by Chinese authorities on the pretext, considered smoky by most observers, that they engaged in espionage.
All analysts, including the Canadian government, believe that this is more of a retaliation because Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, at the request of the United States, which is seeking his extradition.
Washington intends to charge Ms. Meng because her company allegedly lied about severing its ties with an Iranian subsidiary. As a result, American banks that have done business with Huawei have found themselves in violation of American sanctions against Iran.
This is the first time a Canadian politician has been able to speak to a Chinese politician since the beginning of this case.
In January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had asked to speak on the phone to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, but this request had not been answered. In June, at the G20 summit in Osaka, Mr. Trudeau had to ask U.S. President Donald Trump to intercede on Canada’s behalf with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he was unable to meet himself.
“You’re right. This is the first official meeting since the detentions,” Freeland admitted in a press briefing on Friday. Why did the Chinese accept this time? “This is a question you have to ask the Chinese. Our door was always open,” she simply replied. “I am glad that it was possible to exchange directly. »
Minister Freeland also refuses to indicate in what climate the meeting took place or how the Chinese minister reacted when Ms. Freeland described the two arrests as “arbitrary”. “During the NAFTA negotiations[with the United States], I am convinced that one of the reasons why the negotiations were finally effective was that they decided not to negotiate in public. »
It therefore intends to stick to the same modusoperandi. “Our relationship with China is complicated at the moment. So I think it’s better not to negotiate in public with China exactly as we did with the United States. “She only said that it was “a useful conversation”.