BEIJING – China urged Canada to “reflect on its mistakes” and immediately release an arrested Huawei executive in comments Thursday on the appointment of a new Canadian ambassador to the country.
Relations between China and Canada were severely damaged when Meng Wanzhou – the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei and the daughter of its founder – was arrested at Vancouver’s airport last Dec. 1 at the request of the U.S.
“At present, China-Canada relations are facing serious difficulties,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing. “We urge the Canadian side to reflect on its mistakes, take seriously China’s stern position and concerns, and immediately release Meng Wanzhou and let her return safely.”
Geng said China hopes the new envoy, Dominic Barton, can play an active role in returning ties to a “normal track” and take China’s concerns seriously. He said Canada is responsible for the current tensions.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired previous Ambassador John McCallum after he said it would be “great” if the U.S. dropped its extradition request for Meng. She is wanted by the U.S. on fraud charges and is currently out on bail in Vancouver and living in her multi-million dollar home awaiting extradition proceedings.
In apparent retaliation less than two weeks after her arrest, China detained two Canadians on suspicion of stealing state secrets. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have been denied access to lawyers and their family members since Dec. 10.
China has also placed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola and meat. In January, China handed a death sentence to a convicted Canadian drug smuggler in a sudden retrial.
Barton, former global managing director of consulting firm McKinsey & Co., worked in Asia for 12 years and served on the board of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. He also was an adjunct professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, according to online biographies.
China has also appointed a new envoy to Canada, Cong Peiwu. Cong previously headed the foreign ministry’s office on North American affairs.
This story has been corrected to show that Meng has been released on bail and is not under house arrest.