Canada s arrest of Huawei exec an act of backstabbing, Chinese ambassador says

OTTAWA -- Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye says Canada s arrest of a Huawei Technologies executive was an act of "backstabbing" by a friend.

And Lu warns of "repercussions" if Canada bars the firm from its new 5G network for security reasons, as have three of its intelligence-sharing allies.

In a rare interview with Canadian journalists, Lu also told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to back off recruiting international support in Canada s feud with China. He said it would be a bad idea for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to use the upcoming World Economic Forum summit in Davos to press that case.

Lu said economic relations between the two counties can be repaired and the current impasse could be resolved through negotiations, but he defended the arrests of two Canadians in China and criticized Canada s arrest of the telecommunications executive, saying Meng Wanzhou didn t break any Canadian laws.

Canada detained her in Vancouver last Dec. 1, at the request of American authorities who want her to face fraud charges for her dealings with American banks. She is out on bail and faces extradition proceedings.

China detained Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, after Meng s arrest on vague allegations of "engaging in activities that endanger the national security." Western analysts believe their arrests are an attempt to pressure Canada to free Meng entirely.

China also sentenced another Canadian, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, to death on Monday in a sudden retrial of his drug-smuggling case. He was originally sentenced in 2016 to a 15-year term, but the court delivered the new sentence after reconsidering his case.

A former Liberal justice minister accused China of using "hostage diplomacy" against the three.

Irwin Cotler, the founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, took China to task for characterizing Canada s arrest of Meng as "vile, unconscionable and evil."

"But nothing exposes and unmasks China s contempt for the rule of law, in China as well as in Canada, and its own vile, unconscionable and evil conduct than its cruel and inhumane treatment of Ti-Anna Wang and her infant daughter," Cotler said.

Last week, Wang arrived in southern China where her father, Wang Bingzhang -- considered to be the father of China s ill-fated international pro-democracy movement -- has been jailed since Chinese agents snatched him in Vietnam in 2002 and hauled him back to the People s Republic.

China has consistently denied Wang s attempts to visit her father for almost a decade, as his health has been declining.

In August, Wang was given a fresh Chinese visa, but when she arrived in southern China last week with her husband and 11-month-old daughter, she was turned away after a six-hour airport ordeal. She was sent back to South Korea, where she had been visiting her husband s family.

On Wednesday, as she and her family were changing flights in Beijing on their return trip to Canada, Wang said half a dozen Chinese agents boarded her flight, took her and her daughter into custody, and separated them from her husband.

Two hours later they were forced onto a different flight and sent back to South Korea. Wang s family had to rebook their travel back to Montreal on a new flight from South Korea that took them through the United States.

"Unlike last time, no questions were asked. I wasn t allowed to use my phone or computer, or contact the Canadian Embassy. I couldn t consult with my husband, whom I didn t see again until we were being escorted to the gate, or contact Air Canada to rebook my flight," Wang said in an email from South Korea.

"It was a shocking, terrifying and senseless ordeal with no purpose but to bully, punish and intimidate me and my family," she wrote.

Canada s foreign ministry had no comment on Wang s treatment by Chinese authorities.

But the two countries continued to trade barbs Thursday over the detentions of Kovrig and Spavor and the death sentence to Schellenberg.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Thursday that people from China could themselves be at risk following Canada s detention of a Chinese telecom executive for "no reason."

"What threat has China posed to Canada?" Chunying said when asked by journalists about the duelling allegations, during a regular news conference in Beijing. "I think your foreign minister may be in a hurry, and can t help speaking without thinking."

The remark was triggered by Freeland s comment Wednesday that "the arbitrary detentions of Canadians ... represent a way of behaving which is a threat to all countries."

The death sentence has also been fuelling a daily sparring match between the two countries.

"It is understandable that Canada is a little worried, but we hope it will avoid speaking freely without thinking because its reputation and image would be badly damaged by such behaviours," Hua said Thursday. "And such remarks cannot help settle the issue, either."

John McCallum, Canada s ambassador to Beijing, is scheduled to appear before an all-party parliamentary committee for one hour Friday morning to field questions from MPs about the situation involving the three Canadians in China. The meeting will take place behind closed doors.

McCallum told reporters late Wednesday that two Canadians detained last month in China are being interrogated by authorities for up to four hours a day.

Speaking at a three-day cabinet retreat in Sherbrooke, Que., he also credited the government s efforts to get allies to rally in support of Canada s position.

"I really think that s just the beginning," he said.

"I think we have to engage the senior Chinese leaders and persuade them that what they are doing is not good for China s image in the world, it s not good for the image of corporate China in the world."

Kovrig entered China on regular passport with business visa so he does not enjoy diplomatic immunity, Lu says. And acts that endanger national security done when he was a diplomat would not be covered by immunity, either, per Vienna conventions.

Re: Schellenberg. Lu says court issued death penalty based on Chinese law. Denies it was "hasty" decision, says all legal procedures were observed. Notes Schellenberg still has right to appeal. Timing of sentence depends on appeal and ruling.

Lu refers to China s recent travel advisory, says its citizens must be aware of their safety visiting Canada. Meng arrest has entrepreneurs understandably concerned about their safety in Canada, he claims.

As a gesture of goodwill, would China release Kovrig and Spavor if Canada released Meng? Lu: "the two cases are not connected."

Re Trudeau calls to other leaders, Lu again warns against trying to rally support against China. "These efforts will only serve to escalate tensions."

Now the warm fuzzies: Lu says Chinese consider Canada the friendliest western nation, refers to Bethune. Says this is why China is particularly "hurt" by "backstabbing" over Meng arrest. Hopes for swift resolution of dispute.

Lu notes internal criticism in Canada. "Some say the Meng case was not handled properly"; says Meng case "politically motivated." Insists China knows Canadian judicial system well.

Lu says bilateral relations best way to resolve the issue and not "microphone diplomacy" or "hyping up" developments.

"I believe there will be repercussions," if Huawei excluded from 5G in Canada, Lu says; encourages Canada to make a "wise" decision."

Potential exclusion of Hauwei from Canada s 5G network over security is a concern, but would be based on no evidence, Lu says. US had no reason to do it, had never used Huawei network equipment. Done "for other motives," he says.

Re: Kovrig and Spavor, Lu claims Chinese courts are independent, says government can t interfere and the accused get due process (FTR virtually no one outside China would agree with that.)

Lu says the current "unpleasant developments" are having an effect on bilateral trade relationship, including exploratory free-trade talks.

Lu defends reference to "white supremacy" in Canada in his Hill Times editorial last week, says even Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has said this a concern.

On Meng detention, Lu says Liberal government is to blame, because it is responsible for Canada s legal system. Calls her arrest "groundless," but claims China has valid basis for arrest of Kovrig, Spavor.

In midst of escalating diplomatic tensions, Amb Lu Shaye takes journalists questions at PRC embassy in Ottawa. And still blaming Canada for arresting
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