China hits back at 'arrogant' Trudeau as Huawei battle heats up

OTTAWA (BLOOMBERG) – China denounced Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments as “extremely unreasonable, absurd and arrogant”, as Beijing ramped up an 11th-hour effort to prevent a Huawei executive’s extradition to the United States.

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa expressed its “great indignation and strongest condemnation” in a statement on Thursday (Aug 12), protesting Mr Trudeau’s criticism of an 11-year prison sentence of Canadian national Michael Spavor.

The Prime Minister had condemned the verdict in Spavor’s politically charged spying trial on Wednesday as “absolutely unacceptable and unjust”.

The embassy also pushed back against allegations that the prosecutions of Spavor and fellow Canadian Michael Kovrig were arbitrary detentions intended to pressure Ottawa to block the extradition of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. The Chinese government views the case as a politically motivated attack on one of its chief technology champions.

“There is no such thing as ‘arbitrary detention’ at all,” the embassy said of the Spavor case. “On the contrary, the Canadian side, disregarding the political nature of the Meng Wanzhou incident and acting as an accomplice of the US side, has detained Ms Meng, an innocent Chinese citizen who violates no Canadian law at all, for nearly 1,000 days. This is arbitrary detention in every sense of the term.”

Spavor and Kovrig were detained by China’s top spy agency in December 2018, days after Meng’s arrest in Vancouver and the government has advanced their prosecutions in tandem with Meng’s extradition fight. Spavor’s verdict came just as Meng’s defence began a final effort to prevent her from being sent to the US to face fraud charges. The timing of Kovrig’s verdict remains unclear.

Diplomats from 25 countries, including Japan, Germany and Britain, gathered at the Canadian Embassy before Spavor’s verdict, in a gesture Ambassador Dominic Barton said showed Beijing “that all the eyes of the world are watching”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also issued a statement denouncing the use of arbitrary detentions to exercise diplomatic leverage.

“People should never be used as bargaining chips,” Mr Blinken said.

The Chinese Embassy dismissed the diplomatic show of solidarity with Canada as an attempt at “megaphone diplomacy” by a “handful of diplomats from Western countries”. “This is totally in vain,” it said.

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