January 7, 2019 4:01 pm
Updated: January 7, 2019 7:20 pm

Canadian delegation tried ‘educating’ Chinese about Huawei CFO arrest while raising detentions

A political storm could be brewing for a group of Canadian officials heading to China. They hope to build better relations as tensions grow between the two countries, and that visit won't involve China's detention of two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Abigail Bimman explains.

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A Canadian delegation of politicians met with Chinese officials on Monday as part of a scheduled trip to boost trade and political ties.

But while there, they soon found themselves having to try “educating” the Chinese about how the concept of an independent judiciary works when their hosts raised the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou by Canadian authorities at the behest of the Americans, who want her extradited, last month.

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“Certainly they did bring up the issue of Ms. Meng and we spent some time, I think, educating them on the fact that her arrest was pursuant to an extradition treaty that we have with the United States, that any decisions with respect to what happen to her will be based upon facts and the application of the law to those facts, that our judiciary and law enforcement agencies are completely independent of politics,” said Conservative MP Michael Cooper, who spoke with Global News from Shanghai where the delegation held its first day of meetings.

“I think there was perhaps some misconceptions about how that went about, what led to Ms. Meng’s arrest and so we emphasized the fact that is was not up to us, it’s not up to the legislative branch, the executive branch.”

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Meng, daughter of the founder of China’s technological crown jewel, was arrested on Dec. 1 when her flight landed in Vancouver on accusations that the company she leads has been using a subsidiary to skirt U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Meng denies the allegations and has been granted bail while she awaits further progress on her case.

In contrast, the two Canadians arrested by the Chinese shortly after have been denied access to legal counsel and reportedly denied any further consular visits apart from one initial visit by Canadian Ambassador John McCallum on Dec. 14.

Both are accused of “endangering national security,” though Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has called their detentions “arbitrary.”

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A spokesperson for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said China’s ambassador to Canada was summoned by national security advisor Greta Bossenmaier, who stressed “the importance of timely consular access and proper treatment for all detained Canadians,” on Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, McCallum stayed in Beijing over the holidays to continue to “engage” Chinese officials.

“We continue to request regular consular access and expect follow-up visits to take place,” the spokesperson said.

“Canadian officials at all levels are in contact with the Chinese authorities and our international partners and we thank our allies for their statements of support.”

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Cooper is one of five Canadian politicians in China with the delegation.

Senator Joseph Day is also there as are Liberal MPs Chandra Arya, Majid Jowhari and Geng Tan.

The delegation faced questions last week after reports the detentions of Kovrig and Spavor were not set to be discussed.

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Cooper said while talks on the detentions may not have formed part of the official agenda given the visit was planned months ago, his impression is that the matter has been top of mind.

“I can’t speak for everyone on my delegation but I certainly will and I can say based on the discussions we had today that was widely brought up,” he said.

“From my standpoint, the number one issue is the arbitrary detention of these two Canadians.”

Parliamentary delegations are essentially friendship groups designed to bring together representatives from different countries to work together on matters of mutual interest outside of the scope of official visits conducted by ministers and official representatives of the state.

The Canadian delegation is expected to remain in China for meetings over the next several days.

— With files from Mike LeCouteur

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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