Led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties with China by castigating Beijing for its practice of “coercive diplomacy”.
During a press interaction, Trudeau said Canada will “remain absolutely committed to working with our allies to ensure that China’s approach of coercive diplomacy, its arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens alongside other citizens of other countries around the world is not viewed as a successful tactic by them.”
According to local media reports, Trudeau also expressed concern over the protection of human rights in Hong Kong as well that of the Uighur minority in China.
Two Canadians, including a former diplomat, remain in prison in China—a retaliatory measure after a senior executive of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei was detained in Vancouver in late 2018 and faces trial and possible extradition to the US in a case related to bank fraud.
Trudeau’s words were echoed by Canadian foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne. In a statement issued by Global Affairs Canada, he said, “It is unacceptable that any citizen be arbitrarily detained. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor must be brought home. This is something for which all Canadians stand united. The use of coercive diplomacy causes Canada to re-examine its approach, with a focus on multilateral cooperation.”
As Canada is framing a new Indo-Pacific policy in light of its deteriorating relations with China, Champagne also said that as a “Pacific nation”, its future ties it to “peace, stability and prosperity in the region.” He also said that “Canada will work with partners to hold the Chinese government accountable to its international obligations” and that the “common future of Canada and China depends on the rule of law, respect for rights and freedoms and for people in all their diversity.”
These statements come amid a chorus of criticism directed at China from the Canadian leadership. At a recent European think tank event, defence minister Harjit Sajjan had remarked on how NATO needs to monitor Chinese activity, particularly in the South China Sea and called it out for practising “hostage diplomacy.”
Earlier this month, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations Bob Rae said the two Canadians detained by China were “living in terrible conditions”, adding, “This is something which we shall never forget.”
Only recently was Canada’s ambassador in China allowed a virtual consular access to the two men, the first time such permission was granted by Beijing since January this year.