Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says she raised the issue of the two detained Canadians in China during a meeting with her Chinese counterpart this week, the first time since diplomatic tensions between the two countries plunged into an impasse.
Freeland said Friday that she and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Bangkok and “committed to continued discussions.”
“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 after wrapping the annual summit for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Freeland tweeted out a photo of her shaking hands with the Chinese minister, with a link to a statement that said the two had a “frank exchange of views.”
She said Wang also raised concerns about the extradition process for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. Canada arrested the Chinese tech executive last December on an extradition request from the United States.
Soon after, China arrested Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.
“We had an exchange of views on issues of importance to both of our countries,” Freeland said.
The Trudeau government has repeatedly argued that China’s arrests of Kovrig and Spavor are arbitrary and that Meng’s case will be dealt with by the rule of law.
A ‘basic step’: Scheer
The minister made the meeting known during a teleconference with reporters Friday morning, but wouldn’t say whether any movement has been made freeing the two men.
“Our relationship with China is complicated at the moment. I am convinced, as I was during the NAFTA negotiations and by the NAFTA precedent, that the surest route to a successful outcome is for us not to be negotiating in public.”
She had previously said she had tried and failed to get a meeting with Wang.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he isn’t won over.
“They have not taken any action whatsoever. They still haven’t taken the step of appointing an ambassador. Something that should be very, very straightforward for this government,” he said during a stop in Toronto, referencing John McCallum’s firing from the post earlier this year.
“They have not filed a complaint to the World Trade Organization for China’s actions against our canola, beef and pork exports. So you’ll pardon me if I’m not about to congratulate the minister of foreign affairs for taking a very basic step here. There’s far more they should have been doing much, much earlier.”