Freeland urges Canadians to heed Ottawa’s warnings before heading to Hong Kong
“Our government is very aware that there are 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told a news conference Wednesday in Toronto, where she met with German’s foreign minister Heiko Maas.
WATCH: Freeland advises China to ‘listen carefully’ to concerns of Hong Kong residents
“This is a turbulent moment in the world…. I would urge all Canadians, if you live in Hong Kong, if you are travelling there, if you have relatives who are there or are travelling there, to look at our travel advice.”
The federal government warned Canadians last week about travelling to Hong Kong as the protests continue and the Chinese military amassing on the border.
The travel advisory encouraged Canadians to “exercise a high degree of caution in Hong Kong due to ongoing large-scale demonstrations.”
Canadians in Hong Kong should contact the Canadian consulate there if they need help, she added.
WATCH: Freeland says government is focused on welfare of Canadians in Hong Kong amid protests
Demonstrators and police have clashed violently in recent days after protesters took over the airport, shutting down all flights in or out for two days.
The demonstrations began last spring after the Hong Kong government introduced a bill that would allow Hong Kong citizens to be sent to China if they are arrested. The protests escalated in June and have continued.
On Monday, the second day protesters shut down the airport, clashes with riot police became violent. Chinese troops, meanwhile, have been seen amassing in large numbers in Shenzhen, a Chinese city about 30 kilometres from Hong Kong.
More than 600 people have been arrested in Hong Kong as demonstrators voice their calls for democratic reforms.
The Chinese government referred to the protesters as terrorists. Freeland said governments should be careful about such labels.
“I think that it is very important everywhere in the world for governments to listen to the concerns of their people,” she said, adding that while it may be tempting for governments to label protesters as something else when they do not agree with the message, “it is a mistake to do that.”
Canada’s relationship with China is fraught with tension over Canada’s arrest of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou, and China’s subsequent detention of two Canadians allegedly for national security reasons.
Businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were detained in China in December shortly after Meng was arrested at the Vancouver airport to face possible extradition to the United States, where she faces fraud charges.
Freeland acknowledged “the dignity and the courage” of the two detained men and their families, and mentioned her one-on-one meeting with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi last month in Thailand, where they discussed the Spavor and Kovrig matter as well as the extradition process for Meng.
“It was a positive step that we were able to have a direct conversation about that.”
© 2019 The Canadian Press