June 1, 2016 / 9:37 PM / in 4 years

Canada raises detainee case with China, presses on human rights

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada on Wednesday pressed China about a Canadian citizen charged with spying and also raised the need to improve human rights around the world, Foreign Minister Stephane Dion said.

A boy looks up as he walks past the closed coffee shop owned by Canadian couple Kevin Garratt and Julia Dawn Garratt in Dandong, Liaoning province, August 5, 2014. REUTERS/Ben Blanchard

Dion, part of the new Liberal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said that while Canada wanted closer trade ties with China, it would not hesitate to speak out on sensitive matters.

In January, China indicted Canadian citizen Kevin Garratt on charges of spying and stealing state secrets. He was detained in August 2014 near China’s sensitive border with North Korea.

“The case ... of Mr Garratt has been raised by the prime minister and by myself,” Dion told reporters after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“We never miss an opportunity to raise human rights, but the details should not be revealed publicly for the sake of Mr. Garratt. It’s something the two governments will have to work together (on),” he said.

Canada wanted to improve human rights globally and therefore had to talk to China, which has a sixth of the world’s population, Dion said.

A Trudeau spokesman declined to answer when asked about the prime minister’s talks with Wang on Garratt.

Wang did not mention the Garratt case but said through an interpreter that it was “normal and natural for our two countries to disagree on some issues.”

He did, however, criticize a female Canadian reporter who had asked about human rights problems in China, accusing her of displaying an unacceptable arrogance.

Trudeau wants closer trading ties with China and other fast-developing nations to help boost a sluggish Canadian economy.

Wang said he had told Dion that China wanted to speed up the process of starting talks on a free trade deal. Dion stressed the need for closer ties but did not mention free trade.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources in Ottawa said Trudeau plans to visit China for a week in the run-up to a Sept. 4-5 Group of 20 Summit in Hangzhou. Details of the trip have not been finalized.

The Liberals took power last November after defeating the Conservatives, who had an uneven relationship with China.

Wang hailed Trudeau’s victory, noting that his father - former Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau - was in office when Canada established diplomatic relations with China in 1970.

The Conservatives complained about China’s human rights record, accused Chinese hackers of cyber espionage and curbed investment by state-owned enterprises in the energy sector.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Alan Crosby

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