Trudeau rejects trading Huawei executive for two Canadians held by China

OTTAWA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday (Jun 25) rejected calls to step in to halt the extradition trial of Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, saying it would risk more arrests of Canadians overseas to pressure Ottawa.

His comments were in response to a letter penned by 19 Canadian former lawmakers and diplomats, backed by the family of ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig, urging Ottawa to free Meng.

Their hope is that doing so could lead Beijing to release Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, who have been held for 18 months.

“I respect the distinguished Canadians who put forward that letter, but I deeply disagree with them,” Trudeau told a daily briefing.

But their proposal is shortsighted, he said.

It would, he explained, “demonstrate to China that all they or another country has to do is randomly arrest a handful of Canadians to put political pressure on a government to do what (they) want,” he said.

And that “would endanger the millions of Canadians who live and travel overseas every single year.”

“We cannot allow political pressures or random arrests of Canadian citizens (by foreign governments) to influence the functioning of our justice system.”

Meng is wanted in the US for alleged fraud involving the Chinese tech giant’s use of a covert subsidiary to sell to Iran in breach of US sanctions.

Her arrest soured Canada-China relations, and was followed nine days later by what Ottawa has said was the “arbitrary detention” of the two Canadians.

Meng, the eldest daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, has been out on bail and living in a mansion in Vancouver, while the two Canadians remain in China’s opaque penal system.

Her extradition trial is set to resume in August.

Last Friday China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate said it had begun the prosecution of Kovrig and Spavor, who it said were suspected of foreign espionage and providing state secrets.