The Chinese are blaming Canada for tensions between Beijing and Ottawa, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks to U.S. President Donald Trump for help with freeing two detained Canadians.
“Canada is to blame for the current problems in the relations between China and Canada,” Lu Kang, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters in Beijing on Friday. “Canada clearly knows why and what they need to do to improve the relationship.”
Lu also accused Canada of misrepresenting Trump’s pledge to help, pointing out the president did not specifically mention the two detained Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in his remarks alongside Trudeau on Thursday.
“Anything I can do to help Canada I will be doing,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Thursday at a photo op with Trudeau. When asked if he would raise the case of the detained Canadians, Trump said: “I would, at Justin’s request. I will absolutely bring it up.”
Trudeau later declined to say whether he overtly asked Trump for help with the two Canadians. The prime minister said he and Trump had “extended conversations” about China and discussed “potential paths forward.” He said the two detained Canadians are a top priority.
Tensions between Beijing and Ottawa have been high since last December when Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the Vancouver airport on a request from the Trump administration.
China retaliated by detaining several Canadians, including Kovrig and Spavor, and by accelerating a drug trial against another Canadian facing a death sentence. Kovrig and Spavor were formally arrested and accused of “spying” in May. The two had been languishing in custody for several months before they were charged amid protests from Canada.
“Canada, or any other country, should respect China’s judicial sovereignty and should not make irresponsible remarks about issues that fall under China’s judicial sovereignty,” Lu told reporters on Friday.
China has also restricted a slew of Canadian imports, including pork and canola. It reassigned its ambassador to Canada earlier this month and has yet to name a replacement.
Trudeau avoided answering questions about Meng and her pending extradition case in Washington on Thursday. Instead, he focused his replies on the two detained Canadians.
“We know the president will have a meeting with President Xi (Jinping) and we absolutely expect the subject of the Canadians who have been arbitrarily and unjustly detained in China will be on the agenda,” he told reporters.
Trump is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Japan next week. The two leaders are expected to discuss a wide range of issues, but their tit-for-tat trade war will likely be the main focus.
Trudeau will also be at the event.