July 2, 2019 / 9:36 PM / 2 months ago

Canada 'confident' U.S. raised issue of detained citizens with China

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s prime minister said on Tuesday he is confident U.S. President Donald Trump made good on his promise to raise the cases of two detained Canadians during recent discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

People hold signs calling for China to release Canadian detainees Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig during a court appearance by Huawei's Financial Chief Meng Wanzhou, outside of British Columbia Supreme Court building in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments come after Trump said on Saturday he did not talk with Xi about the extradition proceedings against Chinese telecommunications executive Meng Wanzhou during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan.

“I am confident that the Americans brought up the issue and President Trump brought up the issue of the detained Canadians in China,” Trudeau said during a news conference in Toronto. He did not say why he was confident the matter was raised.

Relations between Canada and China remain strained after police in Vancouver detained Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.[HWT.UL] on a U.S. arrest warrant in December.

Shortly after her arrest, Beijing detained two Canadians - businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig - who have since been charged with espionage. China has also blocked Canadian exports of canola seed, pork and beef.

Trump had promised to raise the issue of the two detained Canadians during a June 30 meeting between the United States and China at the Group of 20 meeting in Japan.

In that meeting, China and the United States, which have been embroiled in an escalating trade war, agreed to resume trade talks after Trump offered concessions, including no new tariffs and an easing of restrictions on Huawei.

The Trump administration has said the telecommunications company is too close to the Chinese government and poses a threat to U.S. national security.

On Tuesday, Trudeau said he personally discussed Kovrig and Spavor’s detentions, as well as “the larger issue of Canada-China relations” with Xi on the sidelines of the G20. “This is an issue we take extremely seriously.”

Speaking in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had already issued its account of the meeting between Xi and Trump - one that made no mention of Canada.

“We hope that Canada is not naive. First, Canada should not naively believe that mustering so-called allies to put pressure on China will have any effect,” Geng told reporters.

“Second, Canada should not naively believe that its so-called allies can really exert themselves for them. All they can really do is waggle their lips, as in the end this is a matter between China and Canada,” he added.

Reporting by Kelsey Johnson; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Toronto, and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Dan Grebler and Darren Schuettler

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