Canada and China were involved in a war of words at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Monday over the detention of their citizens, who were released over the weekend in an apparent prisoner swap.
Speaking at the closing day of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau thanked Canadian Michael Kovrig and international allies for their support in the case of Michael Spavor, who has been in Chinese custody for nearly three years. After his stay, he returned to Canada. .
His release on Friday night by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came hours after a deferred prosecution agreement was struck in the case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was accused of fraudulently trying to circumvent US sanctions against Iran.
On Friday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge withdrew US extradition charges against him, allowing him to return to China.
Garneau told the UNGA that Canada applied both Canadian and international law in response to the US request for Meng’s extradition, and that “the two Michaels”, as they are known, “forged Canada’s commitment to the rule of law”. paid a heavy price”. .
“We continue to protest the way these two citizens were treated, Canada will “never forget this experience,” Garneau said.
China has long said there is no link between Meng’s case and Spavor and Kovrig, who were arrested on espionage charges just days after a Huawei executive was suspected.
Exercising the right of reply at the UNGA, a representative of China’s UN mission, speaking shortly after Garneau’s address, said Meng’s case was “completely different” to that of the Canadian men.
He accused the US and Canada of arbitrarily detaining Meng, classifying it as a “complete political incident and frame-up”.
“We hope that Canada can face the facts fully, correct its mistakes and learn from what happened so that they don’t make any more mistakes,” the Chinese diplomat said.
In exercising his right to reply, a representative of Canada’s UN mission stated that the “two Michaels” did not enjoy the same transparency, respect, due process or judicial independence as Meng.
Meng was placed under house arrest in one of his Vancouver mansions, while two Canadians faced harsh conditions in Chinese detention – where they had limited access to the outside world and their families.
“We will continue to oppose the way these Canadian citizens were treated, and we will continue to speak out against arbitrary detention in state-by-state relations,” the Canadian diplomat said.
The Chinese representative retorted for the last time, saying that China cannot accept what the Canadian representative has said.
“The facts cannot be denied,” he said.
Kovrig and Spavor’s safe return on Saturday to Canada, where they were welcomed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Calgary, marked the end of a tense international standoff that ended strained relations between Ottawa and Beijing.
Earlier on Monday, in another twist, China’s foreign ministry said Spavor and Kovrig had been released on bail for health reasons.
China released two Canadians on bail, “with a diagnosis by professional medical institutions and guaranteed by Canada’s ambassador to China,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily briefing.
In an interview with Granthshala News on Sunday, Garneau said the federal government’s “eyes are wide open” when it comes to China.
“It’s an open policy with respect to (the Chinese government),” Garneau told Mercedes Stephenson during an episode of Granthshala News. west block. He said the arbitrary captive of “two Michaels” had strained Canada’s ties with China.
However, the country’s relationship with China continues to evolve, Garneau said, and the two will still “coexist”.
“We will compete. We will cooperate in areas where we need to cooperate, such as climate change, and we will challenge China, whether it is on human rights or whether it is arbitrary detention, when appropriate, “They said.
— With files from Granthshala News’ Emerald Bensadoun, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press