Wang made the remarks on Friday when he met his Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.
Without naming Meng, Wang told Freeland that “Canada’s detention of a Chinese citizen in December has aroused strong anger in Chinese people and led to serious difficulties in China-Canada relations”, according to a statement from China’s foreign ministry.
“The Chinese government will firmly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and companies, and we hope this issue can be resolved in a quick and proper way so that China-Canada relations can get back on the right and healthy track as soon as possible,” Wang said.
It was the first meeting between Wang and Freeland since relations between Beijing and Ottawa turned sour in December, after Vancouver police detained Meng on an extradition request from US authorities who have charged her with fraud for allegedly violating Iran sanctions.
Meng – chief financial officer of Chinese tech firm Huawei and the daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei – has denied the wrongdoing and was placed under house arrest in Vancouver to await an extradition hearing set for January. Beijing is also demanding her return.
Speaking to reporters during a video conference from Bangkok, Freeland said she also brought up the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor during her meeting with Wang.
“The fact that we were able to speak and discuss these issues face-to-face directly with one another absolutely is a positive step,” Freeland said.
She added that she and Wang had agreed to continue discussions on the matter.
Canada’s detention of Meng and China’s arrest of the two Canadians triggered a diplomatic crisis between the two countries that has continued to deepen.
Since January, China has sentenced two other Canadians to death for drug trafficking, and in June, the Chinese customs authority said it would suspend pork import applications from Canada’s Frigo Royal after banned feed additive ractopamine was found in its exported pork products.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly called for the release of Kovrig and Spavor and said he had raised their cases with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their “positive, constructive interactions” on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Japan in June.