Chinese envoy warns Canada against granting asylum to Hong Kong protesters

The Chinese ambassador to Canada warned the Trudeau government today not to grant asylum to Hong Kong residents fleeing a widely criticized national security law imposed by Beijing.

Cong Peiwu dismisses 'coercive' diplomacy claim connected with imprisonment of Spavor, Kovrig in China

Chinese ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu speaks on a panel at the Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The Chinese ambassador to Canada warned the Trudeau government today not to grant asylum to Hong Kong residents fleeing a widely criticized national security law imposed by Beijing.

"We strongly urge the Canadian side not (to) grant so-called political asylum to those violent criminals in Hong Kong," Ambassador Cong Peiwu said in a video press conference from the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa.

He said that would amount to "interference in China's domestic affairs, and certainly it will embolden those violent criminals."

Hong Kong was supposed to operate under a "one country, two systems" deal after Britain handed its former colony over to Beijing in 1997 under an international agreement. But human rights and pro-democracy advocates say Beijing's new national security law is undermining freedom in what is known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

"So if the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong SAR, you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes," Cong said.

Cong also flatly rejected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's assertion that China is engaging in coercive diplomacy by imprisoning two Canadian men in retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese high-tech executive on an American extradition warrant. Meng Wanzhou is living under house arrest in Vancouver while her case wends through a British Columbia court.

In December 2018, China imprisoned Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and charged them with undermining the country's national security. Cong said they are still undergoing a legal process in China but did not provide further details.

He repeated his government's demand that Canada release Meng immediately but insisted her case and his government's prosecution of Kovrig and Spavor are not linked.

"We will remain absolutely committed to working with our allies to ensure that China's approach of coercive diplomacy, its arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens, alongside other citizens of other countries around the world, is not viewed as a successful tactic by them," Trudeau said earlier this week as the two countries marked 50 years of relations at one of the lowest points in Canada-China bilateral relations.

Cong said Canada's efforts to get other countries to join its fight for Kovrig and Spavor is "doomed to fail."

The European Union raised concerns about the two Canadians by name in the communique summarizing its recent summit with China.

"We oppose any remarks that interfere in our internal affairs. And I would like to point out, there is no coercive diplomacy on the Chinese side," Cong said.