China Is Using Detainees as ‘Bargaining Chips,’ Trudeau Envoy Says
(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will only call President Xi Jinping as a last resort if the Chinese government doesn’t release two detained Canadians, Ambassador John McCallum said.
Canada will first use international pressure to resolve the matter, McCallum told reporters Friday after a closed-door meeting with lawmakers in Ottawa. Michael Kovrig, on leave from his foreign service job in Hong Kong to work for the International Crisis Group, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who ran tours into North Korea, were detained on Dec. 10, nine days after the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. request. She is now free on bail.
McCallum said there’s a perception in the global community the Canadians are being used as “bargaining chips.” Canada also wants clemency for a third citizen given a death sentence in China on drug charges.
It’s not in the interests of corporate China, “when they run into trouble internationally, if the Chinese government arrests people to use as bargaining chips,” McCallum said. “That is the perception of much of the world, and that isn’t good for the reputation of Chinese business people.”
China’s ambassador to Canada held a rare press conference on Thursday where he said the cases aren’t connected and efforts to rally others against China aren’t helpful. Lu Shaye declined to comment on whether a call from Trudeau to the Chinese president would resolve matters. McCallum said the time for such a step isn’t yet at hand.
“The prime minister calling the president is essentially the last arrow in our quiver, and I think other actions have to be taken first,” McCallum said. “I expect there will be a moment when it is appropriate for the prime minister to make that call, but I don’t think that moment has yet arrived.’’
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