June 3, 2016 / 5:02 PM / in 2 years

Canada complains to China after foreign minister blasts reporter

WINNIPEG (Reuters) - Canada has complained to China about the behavior of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who publicly berated a Canadian journalist in Ottawa this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi greets reporters before addressing them in Beijing, China, May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Wang lost his temper on Wednesday when pressed by a female reporter about human rights in China, saying the question was unacceptable and calling her arrogant and irresponsible.

The incident occurred after a meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, who raised the case of Kevin Garratt, a Canadian citizen charged with spying in China.

Dion and Canadian Foreign Ministry officials had “expressed our dissatisfaction to both the Chinese foreign minister and the ambassador of China to Canada... (about) the way our journalists were treated,” Trudeau told a news conference in Winnipeg.

No one was immediately available for comment at the Chinese embassy in Ottawa.

The affair comes at a delicate time for Trudeau, who wants to boost trade with China to help revive a struggling Canadian economy. He is set to visit China in late August in the run-up to a G20 summit in Hangzhou.

China wants a free trade agreement with Canada. Opinion polls have consistently shown Canadians are divided about the idea, citing concerns about human rights, freedom of religion and fears of increasing Chinese influence in Canada.

Trudeau, saying there was no evidence to back the charges of spying against Garratt, raised the case with Wang at a private meeting on Wednesday. The Canadian was detained in August 2014 near China’s sensitive border with North Korea.

“We will continue to bring up human rights concerns every chance we get ... the way Canada has always engaged best in the world is to be active and vocal about the things we are concerned about and disagree on, while at the same time looking for common ground,” Trudeau said.

Dion, criticized by commentators for not intervening on behalf of the Canadian reporter, on Friday told journalists that she was “a professional with a thick skin” and did not need him to go her rescue.

Additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Alan Crosby

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