Ambassador visits Canadians detained in China in Huawei case

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BEIJING, Nov 20 (AP): Canada’s ambassador to China has visited a pair of Canadians held for almost two years amid a dispute over the arrest of an executive of Chinese technology giant Huawei.

The Canadian government said in a news release that Ambassador Dominic Barton met with former diplomat Michael Kovrig on Thursday and with businessman Michael Spavor on November 10. The pair have been confined since December 2018, just days after Canada detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the company’s founder.

It was only their third consular visit this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. No information has been released about where the Canadians are being detained or under what conditions.

Canada accuses China of arbitrarily arresting the pair in order to pressure it into releasing Meng, who lives under a form of house arrest in Vancouver while she challenges a US extradition order to face fraud charges related to trade sanctions on Iran.

China says Canada has no right to hold Meng and says Kovrig and Spavor are suspected of national security crimes. Yet, Beijing has long drawn a link between their cases, demanding that Canada release Meng while offering no details about specific accusations against the two Canadians.

China has also sentenced two other Canadians to death and suspended canola imports in an apparent effort to pressure Ottawa.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently referred to China’s actions as “coercive diplomacy” and spoke with US President-elect Joe Biden about working together to resolve the issue.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Canada was trying to shirk its responsibility in the Meng case by attempting to “hide the truth and mislead public opinion.”

“Once again we urge the Canadian side to meet China halfway, correct the mistake and resolve the issue of Meng Wanzhou in a proper way immediately,” Zhao said.

American officials say Huawei might facilitate Chinese spying, which the company denies and the administration has been lobbying European and other allies to exclude it and other Chinese suppliers as they upgrade their telecommunications networks.

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