China invokes SNC-Lavalin controversy to advocate for Huawei exec's release
Foreign Ministry says Canada has questions to answer on judicial independence
China's Foreign Ministry grabbed a chance to question the state of judicial independence in Canada on Friday, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government faced accusations at home that it had tried to intervene to stop a corruption trial.
Trudeau's domestic troubles have attracted attention in Chinese state media due to his previous assertion that his government cannot interfere in the case of a senior Huawei executive arrested in Canada and now fighting extradition to the United States.
Canada is likely to announce on Friday that an extradition hearing against Meng Wanzhou, the telecommunication giant's chief financial officer, can proceed, legal experts said, worsening already icy relations with Beijing.
China has repeatedly called for the release of Meng, arrested in Vancouver in December at Washington's request. In late January the U.S. Justice Department charged Huawei and Meng with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran.
At a regular daily news briefing in Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry took the opportunity to take Canada to task over possible double standards, by commenting on a domestic Canadian political issue that does not otherwise involve China.
Trudeau has disputed allegations by his former justice minister that government officials inappropriately pressured her to help the SNC-Lavalin construction firm avoid a corruption trial.
Asked by a state media journalist if it was contradictory for Trudeau to say he couldn't interfere in Meng's case while his government is accused of trying to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he "really liked this question."
"Of course I think that this is a question that should be asked of the Canadian government," Lu said.
"In fact on this case you have mentioned, people in Canada are paying it a great deal of attention," he added. "In fact, not only Chinese and Canadian citizens, but the whole world are extremely interested to hear how the Canadian government answers this question."
Both Meng and Huawei have denied the U.S. allegations.
Ottawa has until midnight on Friday to announce whether it will issue an authority to proceed, which would allow a court in British Columbia to start a formal extradition hearing.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has stressed that Canada is a "rule of law" country and is acting without political interference in the extradition case of Meng.
"In the Meng case, our government has been scrupulous," she said during an interview Thursday with CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. "Decisions that are correctly taken at the official, ie. non-political level have been scrupulously taken at the official, non-political level, and there has been no interference, political element to the decision."
With files from CBC