January 17, 2019 2:29 pm

Trudeau, Singapore PM discuss the detention of Canadians amid spat with China

WATCH: Justin Trudeau calls death sentence for Canadian in China arbitrary

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Thursday about China’s detainment of Canadians.

A press release from the Prime Minister’s Office explained that the two leaders spoke about “the importance of safeguarding international norms,” amid the rising tensions between Canada and China.

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READ MORE: Trudeau said China broke diplomatic immunity — but experts say it’s complicated

“The two leaders discussed the detention of two Canadians in China, the application of the death penalty to a third Canadian in China, and the importance of safeguarding international norms, including diplomatic immunity, judicial independence and respect for the rule of law,” the release read.

China has been holding Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig for about a month. Earlier this week, the country announced it would apply the death penalty to another Canadian detained in China.

WATCH: Canada formally requests clemency for Canadian sentenced to death in China, Freeland says

In response, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland slammed China’s “arbitrary detentions of Canadians,” saying they “represent a way of behaving which is a threat to all countries.”

The prime minister himself has also called the detentions “arbitrary,” and on Monday claimed China has violated diplomatic immunity principles.

READ MORE: China slams Freeland’s detention comment, says she ‘can’t help speaking without thinking’

“We are extremely concerned as should be all countries around the world that China is choosing to act arbitrarily whether it is in application of its own justice system to its own citizens and people around the world or whether it’s in its choice to not respect long-standing practices and principles in regard to diplomatic immunity,” Trudeau said.

China has dismissed criticisms from Canadian officials.

WATCH: John McCallum calls on ‘friendly’ countries to engage China on Canadian detainees

“It is understandable that Canada is a little worried, but we hope it will avoid speaking freely without thinking because its reputation and image would be badly damaged by such behaviours,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said this week.

READ MORE: China criticizes Trudeau’s remarks on death sentence decision, says he should ‘respect rule of law’

Hua was taking aim at Freeland in particular, and retorted, “What threat has China posed to Canada?”

Both China and Canada have been careful not to directly link the detentions of Canadians to the Vancouver arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

Trudeau and Lee also discussed trade matters during Thursday’s talk, congratulating each other on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Both Canada and Singapore are among the first to ratify the agreement, deepening trade and investment ties, and bringing economic benefits and good jobs to both countries,” the PMO release explained.

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

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