The Chinese government is “harming their own interests” by keeping two Canadian men in arbitrary detention, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said after a three-day gathering with leaders of the world’s seven wealthiest countries.
Speaking to reporters after the G7 Leaders’ Summit, the prime minister condemned the detainment of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, adding that there was a “very clear consensus” among the G7 on their commitment to ending the practice.
“This approach is not just harming their standing in the global economy, but is also harming their own interests,” Trudeau said. “It is counterproductive for China to be engaging in this and that is something that we are all speaking with one voice on.”
Kovrig and Spavor were arbitrarily detained in China in December of 2018, in what is largely viewed as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou for extradition to the United States on fraud charges.
Canada launched the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations in February, which calls upon all states to put an end to arbitrary detention.
“What has happened to the two Michaels should not have happened and indeed could happen in any country around the world,” Trudeau said, adding that the use of arbitrary detention and coercive diplomacy by China is “of concern to all of us.”
“That is why the G7 reaffirmed its commitment to our arbitrary detention initiative, not just aimed at China, but that countries around the world who are using detention of citizens for political purposes.”
Calls have been mounting for Trudeau to take stronger action on the issue — particularly from Conservatives, who have pressed him to urge other G7 leaders to take a collective stand against China and push for the relocation of the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
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U.S. President Joe Biden, too, has faced pressure to challenge China’s economic and human rights policies, as well as other issues.
G7 leaders lashed out at China’s economic policies in a joint statement published Sunday, addressing forced labour in main supply chains of concern in Xinjiang, where the Uyghur minority lives.
The group of leaders said it would continue to “consult on collective approaches to challenging non-market policies and practices which undermine the fair and transparent operation of the global economy.”
“We will promote our values, including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law,” the statement read.
Combatting state-sponsored forced labour in global supply chains was also a sticking point for G7 leaders as they presented an infrastructure plan called “Build Back Better for the World,” — a nod to Biden’s presidential campaign slogan as well as a phrase commonly used often by the Liberals when talking about post-pandemic recovery.
The plan is designed to compete with China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” which is an infrastructure project launched in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping and also referred to as the New Silk Road. It launched a network of projects in large parts of the world, primarily Asia and Africa.
The G7 leaders have also endorsed calls for a “timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened” investigation into the origin of COVID-19 “including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China.”
Speaking at the end of the G7 Summit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the United Kingdom did not believe COVID-19 came from a laboratory and urged the world to “keep an open mind.”
The notion that the virus was manufactured in a Wuhan lab has been dismissed by most public health experts and government officials. However, the theory that COVID-19 leaked accidentally from a Chinese lab is now under a new U.S. investigation ordered by Biden.
— With files from the Canadian Press, the Associated Press and Global News’ Twinkle Ghosh