Canada’s Trudeau rejects call to exchange Huawei executives for detainees in China

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday rejected a call to exchange a jailed Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] executive for two Beijing-held citizens, saying such a move would set a bad precedent and hurt Canada.

FILE PHOTO: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a press conference at Rideau Cottage, as efforts continue to help curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 16, 2020. REUTERS / Blair Gable

Shortly after Vancouver police arrested Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, with a U.S. arrest warrant in December 2018, Beijing detained two Canadian men on security charges. Last week they were charged with alleged espionage.

A group of 19 prominent figures, including former cabinet ministers and diplomats, wrote this week a letter to Trudeau urging Ottawa to stop extradition proceedings against Meng. This, they said, would increase the chances of China releasing the two men.

Trudeau, who rejected China’s repeated calls to intervene in the case against Meng, said the signatories were wrong to ask for his release.

“(This) would endanger the millions of Canadians who live and travel abroad each year. We cannot allow political pressures or random arrests of Canadian citizens to influence the functioning of our justice system, ”he told reporters.

The wife of one of the detained men urged Canada’s justice minister on Tuesday to consider intervening in the case, saying her husband was in an increasingly dire situation.

Although Beijing insists that there is no connection between Meng and the two Canadians, Trudeau said there was a clear link.

“We regret what China did … and we will remain firm and strong,” he said, adding that it would be “absolutely unacceptable” to let Beijing think that it could get what it wanted by arresting Canadians.

China has also blocked imports of Canadian canola seeds and meat products.

Trudeau, when asked if Ottawa could impose sanctions on Chinese officials, said Canada was looking for a variety of options, but did not elaborate.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Richard Chang

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