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Freeland meets Chinese counterpart to talk rising tensions amid detentions

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Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Friday that she met her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, to discuss tensions following Canada’s arrest of a Huawei Technologies Co. executive in December and the subsequent detention of two Canadians by China.

“The fact that I was able to speak to and discuss these issues face-to-face absolutely is a positive step,” Freeland said in a teleconference from Bangkok, Thailand, where she was attending an annual East Asia summit.

READ MORE: Liberals reject bid to study reports of pressure on former diplomats over China

Freeland said the two ministers met on the sidelines of the international gathering and “committed to continued discussions.”

It comes amid escalating tensions since December 2018 when Canadian border authorities detained Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the Americans, who charged her and her company in January 2019 with skirting sanctions on Iran and corporate espionage.

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Just days after Meng’s detention, China arrested Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

They have been detained since then with limited consular access and no access to legal counsel.

Officials in China have publicly linked those arrests with Meng’s case.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been criticized by the Conservatives for not speaking directly to Chinese President Xi Jinping about their detentions.

READ MORE: Trudeau asked to speak directly to China’s premier about detained Canadians: PMO

In June, media reporting revealed China had snubbed a request for direct talks between Trudeau and Li Li Keqiang, the Chinese premier.

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Earlier this month, Trudeau and Xi spoke briefly at the G20 meeting in Japan but it was not made clear if the detentions were among the topics raised in the sideline talks. U.S. President Donald Trump, however, did raise the issue during his meeting with Xi at the same summit.

WATCH: (July 2) Trudeau says he’s had ‘number of conversations’ with Chinese President Xi about detained Canadians

Trudeau says he’s had ‘number of conversations’ with Chinese President Xi about detained Canadians
Trudeau says he’s had ‘number of conversations’ with Chinese President Xi about detained Canadians

Trudeau’s policy with regards to China has been a frequent point of criticism over his last four years in government, with much of the concerns raised by political and academic critics centering on what some have suggested is an overly-deferential approach.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is among those who have urged the government to take tougher action against China, including by withdrawing funding from the Asian Infrastructure Bank led by Beijing.

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When asked about the meeting between Freeland and Wang by reporters on Friday, Scheer said the government should have done more earlier.

“You’ll pardon me if I’m not about to congratulate the foreign affairs minister for taking a very basic step,” he said.

“There’s a lot more they should have done.”

With files from Global News