China is once again issuing a warning to Canada after Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland put out a statement outlining concerns over Beijing’s planned extradition law.
Violent protests in Hong Kong this week are in opposition to a government-sponsored bill that would allow people to be extradited to mainland China to face charges.
If approved, the legislation would cover Hong Kong residents and foreign and Chinese nationals living or travelling through the city, sparking concerns it may threaten the rule of law that underpins Hong Kong’s international financial status.
“Canada remains concerned about the potential effect these proposals may have on the large number of Canadian citizens in Hong Kong, on business confidence and on Hong Kong’s international reputation,” said Freeland in a written statement Wednesday.
“Freedom of expression and assembly are the bedrock of Hong Kong’s free society. It is vital that any legislation preserve Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, rule of law and independent judiciary.”
A few hours later, the Chinese Embassy in Canada put out its own statement.
“Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs,” it read. “No other country, organization or individual has the right to interfere in. Recently, some people from the Canadian government made irresponsible and erroneous comments on the Hong Kong [Special Administrative Region] government’s amendment to the ordinance and other Hong Kong affairs.”
“We deplore and firmly oppose this…. We urge the Canadian side to exercise caution in its words and deeds, stop intervening in the normal legislative process of the Hong Kong SAR, and stop in whatever form interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s domestic affairs.”
Beijing snubbed Trudeau’s request to talk
The diplomatic digs have become par for the course in recent months following Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant in December.
Soon after, China detained businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the detention of the Canadians as “arbitrary.”
He’s been under increasing pressure, particularly from Conservatives, to reach out to the Chinese leadership.
However, Beijing ignored a personal attempt by Trudeau earlier this year to arrange a conversation with China’s premier in order to intervene on behalf of Canadians detained in China.
Trudeau’s office told CBC News that the prime minister requested a call with Prime Minister Li Keqiang, but China ignored and ultimately rejected his request.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry blamed the diplomatic freeze on Canada.
“What I can tell you is that the current setback China-Canada relations face are entirely caused by the Canadian side itself, and the responsibility lies entirely with Canada, too,” said Geng Shuang on Thursday morning.
Last week, the prime minister said he was considering “engaging directly” with Chinese President Xi Jinping as tensions between Canada and China continue to smoulder.
“I look forward to being at the G20 in a few weeks as an opportunity to engage with a number of world leaders with whom we have either good working relationships or challenges,” Trudeau said June 6, speaking about the upcoming gathering in Japan. “The opportunity to engage with the Chinese president directly is certainly something that we are looking at.”
The G20 will meet in Osaka at the end of the month.
Freeland said she repeatedly tried and failed to get a meeting with her counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“It’s very clear that this is a very difficult moment in the relationship between Canada and China,” she told CBC Radio last month.
“I have sought repeatedly a meeting with Wang Yi, the foreign minister, my counterpart. Thus far that meeting hasn’t happened. But if Chinese officials are listening to us today, let me repeat that I would be very, very keen to meet with Minister Wang Yi or to speak with him over the phone at the earliest opportunity.”