China has hit back at Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, after he criticized Beijing’s human rights record, detention of Canadian citizens, and use of “coercive diplomacy.”
On Wednesday, the spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, Zhao Lijian, said the Canadian government had shown “hypocrisy” and “weakness,” as he responded to comments made by Trudeau.
Trudeau fired warning shots at Beijing on Tuesday as he marked the 50th anniversary of Canada’s diplomatic ties with China. “We will remain absolutely committed to working with our allies to ensure that China’s approach of coercive diplomacy, and its arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens, alongside citizens of other countries around the world, is not viewed as a successful tactic by them,” the prime minister said.
Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been detained in China since December 2018 on suspicion of espionage. Their arrests came just days after a Chinese citizen was arrested in Canada.
Trudeau was also critical of China’s human rights record, condemning Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur population of Xinjiang and sharing his concern for the people of Hong Kong.
In Tuesday’s state press conference, Lijian praised the progress achieved by China and Canada over the 50 years of diplomatic relations, but also pleaded with Ottawa to release a Chinese citizen who had been detained in Canada at the request of the US.
Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecom giant Huawei, was detained in December 2018 on re-entry to Canada. She was arrested on charges of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud in order to circumvent US sanctions against Iran. Lijian contended that Wanzhou’s unlawful detention was the root cause of the current deterioration in Sino-Canadian relations.
On Tuesday, Beijing called on Asian nations to unite against Washington’s “old-fashioned cold war mentality” in the latest war of words between Washington and Beijing. The two nations have introduced multiple reciprocal restrictions on each other’s diplomats.
Meanwhile, China’s spiraling diplomatic dispute with Canberra took a further on turn on Monday, as China reportedly banned Australian coal imports. Beijing has previously accused Australia of mass espionage and the raiding of the homes of Chinese journalists.