Pompeo rejects link between Meng case and Canadians detained by China
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has rejected the idea that there are any links between the detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou by Canada at the request of the U.S. and the detention just days later of two Canadians by China.
During his first official visit to Ottawa on Thursday, Pompeo pushed back at a reporter questioning whether abandoning the American extradition request for Meng could help secure the release of detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
China detained Kovrig and Spavor on widely condemned claims of endangering national security in December 2018, just days after Canadian border authorities arrested Meng at the behest of the United States, and its officials have publicly linked the cases.
The next month, the U.S. charged Meng and her company with 23 counts of corporate espionage and violating sanctions on Iran.
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Pompeo also insisted Meng, who was detained by Canadian authorities at the behest of the U.S. last year, is “not a bargaining chip” in the U.S.-China trade war, even though U.S. President Donald Trump has previously said he would intervene in her case if it would help sweeten a trade deal.
“Your question took the Chinese line. Your question connected these two things. These are deeply different,” he told a Canadian reporter.
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“That’s what China wants,” Pompeo continued.
“They want to talk about these issues as if they are morally similar, which they fundamentally are not.”
Pompeo’s first official visit to Canada comes just days before the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, this weekend.
Chinese aggression and global trade reform are expected to be major topics at that meeting, as both Pompeo and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters they had been during the bilateral meeting between the two leaders on Thursday.
WATCH: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland
Pompeo had earlier in the day pledged continued American assistance to Canada in working to secure the release of the two detainees, who have been held in Chinese prison since December 2018 when they were seized just days after Meng’s arrest by Canadian border officials.
“Please do know our team is focused on helping those two Canadians be released,” Pompeo said.
“China needs to honour the commitments it’s made to the world and it is our expectation they’ll do so. We are working on it diligently.”
China has repeatedly linked the detentions of the Canadians with the Meng arrest.
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Meng is fighting extradition to the U.S. in a court battle that could last years.
On Thursday, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa issued a statement saying bilateral ties between Canada and China are suffering “gross difficulties.”
The statement also repeated calls for the release of Meng.
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Canadian officials have repeatedly urged the U.S. to do more to advocate for the release of the Canadians and bring pressure to bear on China, since Meng was detained at the request of the U.S. and in accordance with the longstanding extradition treaty between Canada and the United States.
Other issues raised during the meeting also included the democratic crisis in Venezuela, the lack of ratification on the newly-renegotiated NAFTA trade deal, security against Russia and China in the Arctic, and the escalating tensions in Hong Kong.
China has aggressively attacked Canada for urging caution in its dealings with pro-democracy protesters in the region, over which China is particularly sensitive about any perceived threats to its sovereignty over what it claims is solely an internal affair.
Chinese state media have singled out Freeland over a joint statement she made over the weekend with Federica Mogherini, foreign policy chief for the European Union, in which two called for the right to peaceful assembly be upheld.
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There are 300,000 Canadian passport-holders in Hong Kong, which Freeland cited in her defence of Canada’s continued comments on the matter.
“Regarding Hong Kong, Canada takes a keen interest in Hong Kong. After all, 300,000 Canadians reside in Hong Kong. Therefore it is only natural and important for Canada to keep a close eye on the developments in Hong Kong,” she said.
Freeland added that while Canada believes the one country, two systems policy under which China is supposed to govern Hong Kong is important, “so is the guarantee of peaceful assembly for the people of Hong Kong.”
That policy refers to the agreement under which Hong Kong, a former British territory, was handed over to the Chinese decades ago.
It states that while Hong Kong will be part of China, it will continue to operate under a different economic and governance model than the mainland.
But that has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, with repeated protests by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong who reject increasing Chinese control and influence over the region and its political system, which does not allow citizens to vote.
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