December 24, 2018 11:58 am
Updated: December 24, 2018 10:00 pm

France, New York Times editorial board are the latest to condemn China over detained Canadians

China accused Britain and the European Union of hypocrisy on Monday over their support of Canada's detention concerns, stating Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained for national security concerns and questioned why both didn't speak up when Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested.

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The French government and the New York Times editorial board are the latest voices condemning China for its detention of three Canadians.

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In a column posted on Sunday, the editorial board called for the immediate release of Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor and Sarah McIver, all Canadian citizens who have been detained by China over the past two weeks.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau says people around the world ‘extremely disturbed’ by detention of Canadians in China

“Three Canadian citizens being detained by China appear to have become pawns in a political impasse between the two countries and, by extension, the United States. They should be released immediately,” the editorial board wrote in the column.

“China, already an aggressive rising power known to flout the rule of law and disregard human rights, now seems to be using hostage-taking to resolve economic and diplomatic disputes.”

WATCH BELOW: Federal government ramping up pressure on the Chinese government to release detained Canadians

The detentions of Kovrig, Spavor and McIver come as Chinese officials ramp up demands for charges against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to be dropped.

Meng was arrested on Dec. 1 at the behest of American authorities who allege her company used a subsidiary to skirt U.S. sanctions on Iran.

She has since been released on bail pending the formal filing of an extradition request from American authorities.

While there has been no official comment directly linking the arrests of Canadians to the Meng arrest, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry insinuated as much when they responded to questions from reporters last week about the detentions by pointing to the Meng case.

READ MORE: Chinese official slams Huawei exec’s arrest in response to question about Canadian detentions

In a statement on Sunday, the same spokesperson also accused Britain and the European Union of hypocrisy for their weekend condemnations of China for the detentions, which Chinese officials claim were because Kovrig and Spavor were “endangering national security.”

WATCH: China accuses Canadian allies of hypocrisy in Huawei CFO arrest

McIver, Chinese officials say, was working illegally in the country and it remains unclear whether her case is linked to the others.

But while Meng has received bail, access to legal representation, and is currently staying at her home in Vancouver pending further progress in her case, Kovrig and Spavor are being denied access to lawyers, are reportedly only being allowed one consular access per month, and are being kept in rooms with the lights constantly on.

READ MORE: China accuses Britain, EU of hypocrisy for supporting Canada during spat

Canada and the U.S. also have an extradition treaty in place and more than 90 per cent of the requests for extradition from the U.S. get approved.

China’s handling of the matter, however, has raised questions about political interference.

WATCH BELOW: China questions Canada’s treatment of ‘illegally detained’ Meng Wanzhou

On Monday, France became the latest country to add its voice to the chorus condemning China for its accusations that Canada is handling Meng unfairly.

“Ms. Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, is subject to a regular Canadian legal process that is in accordance with the rule of law. This is consistent with Canada’s international commitments,” said the French foreign ministry statement.

“We are concerned about the arrest in China of two Canadian nationals shortly after Ms. Meng Wanzhou’s arrest. We call on the Chinese authorities to ensure that they are treated in a fair and transparent manner and that the rights of the defense are respected.”

That came after multiple Western democracies and blocs also issued similar statements at the end of last week.

A statement from U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Dec. 21 said his government is confident the Meng case is being handled according to the rule of law by Canada but that there are concerning questions about whether China is doing the same.

“The U.K. has confidence Canada is conducting a fair and transparent legal proceeding with respect to Ms. Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei, respecting the international legal commitments in its extradition treaty with the United States,” said Hunt.

“The U.K. and Canada share a commitment to the rule of law, which is fundamental to all free societies. I am deeply concerned by suggestions of a political motivation for the detention of two Canadian citizens by the Chinese government. I call for them to be treated in a fair, unbiased and transparent manner.”

READ MORE: EU calls for access to legal representation for Canadians detained in China

The European Union also issued a statement criticizing China and coming out in support of Canada after Reuters reported that Kovrig also holds Hungarian citizenship.

“The declared motive for the arrest and detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, both Canadian nationals, raises concerns about legitimate research and business practices in China. The denial of access to a lawyer under their status of detention is contrary to the right of defence,” the statement said.

“The European Union calls on the Chinese authorities to answer these concerns. The EU supports the efforts of the Canadian Government.”

Robert Palladino, deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, issued similar comments.

“Canada, a country governed by the rule of law, is conducting a fair, unbiased, and transparent legal proceeding with respect to Ms. Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei,” he said, also on Dec. 21.

“Canada respects its international legal commitments by honouring its extradition treaty with the United States. We share Canada’s commitment to the rule of law as fundamental to all free societies, and we will defend and uphold this principle. We also express our deep concern for the Chinese Government’s detention of two Canadians earlier this month and call for their immediate release.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland also said in a Saturday teleconference with reporters that Canadian ambassadors around the world have launched a concerted campaign to get more allies to press for the release of the detained Canadians.

The Chinese state-owned Global Times, which serves frequently as a mouthpiece for the ruling Communist Party, dismissed those efforts on Monday and vowed that Canada would “pay for its bad behavior.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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