Canada’s tourism minister has called off her scheduled trip to China after the news that two Canadians were detained by Chinese officials.
A spokesperson for Melanie Joly confirmed that both Canadian and Chinese officials agreed to postpone the trip, which was supposed to take place next week. No new date was given for the trip.
Joly was scheduled to attend the closing ceremonies for the Canada-China Year of Tourism.
“Canada and China mutually agreed to postpone the Canada-China Year of Tourism Closing Ceremony and Minister Joly’s planned travel to China. Both governments agreed this would allow us to better achieve our shared objectives,” ministry spokesperson Jeremy Ghio told Global News.
No official reason for the cancellation was given, but tensions between the two countries rose dramatically earlier this week, when two Canadians were detained by Chinese officials for threats to Chinese national security.
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Friends say they can’t understand how the pair pose threats to Chinese national security. Michael Korvig is a former diplomat and current political analyst and Michael Spavor is a businessman who runs tours to North Korea.
On Thursday, Chinese government officials confirmed the two Canadians are being detained over national security concerns.
Canadian consular officials have been granted access to Korvig, but officials said they haven’t been in contact with Spavor since he was detained.
Chinese officials added that the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver was a mistake and called for her immediate release.
Meng, a prominent and celebrated businesswoman in China, was arrested in Canada and could face extradition to the U.S.
The U.S. and China have been going through a trade spat recently, and U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested he could intervene in Meng’s case if it helped reach a trade deal.
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But Canadian officials have stressed that Meng’s arrest was not political in any way.
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Still no warning for Canadians travelling to China
According to Global Affairs, there are 6,535 Canadians registered in China, but registration with the ministry is voluntary.
Travel Canada hasn’t updated any travel advisories for the region; Canadians in the country are still warned to “exercise a high degree of caution” when travelling because of “isolated acts of violence, including bombings and protests.” It also warns Canadians that Chinese authorities may have a different definition of activities that “endanger national security.”
In the statement, tourism ministry spokesperson Jeremy Ghio stressed that having close ties to China was good for both countries.
“We look forward to meeting again to continue building people-to-people ties and strengthening the tourism relationship between Canada and China — a relationship that creates good jobs for middle-class families and opportunities for people in both countries,” he said.
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Foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan met with their American counterparts, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis, to discuss the situation Friday afternoon.
Freeland stated staunchly that Meng’s case and the detainment of the two Canadians are separate issues.
“When it comes to the rule of law and due process in Canada including extradition matters, Canada understands that (it) ought not ever to be politicized or used as tools to resolve other issues,” Freeland said.
She also stressed that Kovrig and Spavor “are human beings” and the government was working hard to free them.
Pompeo said the U.S. government would advocate for the Canadians who “ought to be returned,” calling their detainment “unacceptable.”
He also said they are continuing to “engage through the legal process to get the just outcome” when it comes to Meng’s case. He also said the U.S. is involved in many discussions with the Chinese, including discussions on trade, and that they will follow the rule of law on all discussions.
On Thursday, opposition leader Andrew Scheer accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of previously having a “naive” approach to Chinese relations — saying the Liberal government “has pursued a policy of appeasement, putting us in a situation where we don’t have leverage.”