Garneau warns the world: doing business with China comes with risk of arbitrary arrests

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau is warning countries around the world that doing business with China means facing the risk of seeing citizens detained arbitrarily.

Working with U.S. to apply pressure to China is central to strategy to free Kovrig, Spavor, says Garneau

'The eyes of the world are beginning to turn towards China': Garneau

1 year ago
Duration 14:52
Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau is encouraging countries around the world to ask questions of China about its treatment of its Muslim minority Uyghur population.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau is warning countries around the world that doing business with China means facing the risk of seeing citizens detained arbitrarily.

"My advice to all other countries in the world is, if you are doing business with China and you have citizens of your country in China, and you have disagreements with them, there is the possibility that your citizens could be detained," Garneau told CBC News Networks' Power & Politics Monday.

Garneau said that likely will remain the case until China gives up the practice of arbitrary detention.

Earlier today, Canadian Michael Kovrig — who has been held in China for more than two years on espionage charges — appeared in a Chinese courtroom for his one-day trial. Fellow Canadian Michael Spavor had his one-day trial on Friday.

Garneau said that while no officials from Canada or any other country were permitted in the courtroom during the proceedings, the Canadian government has been told it will be able to visit the two men before the end of the month. 

Kovrig and Spavor were detained in China on Dec. 10, 2018 — nine days after Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver.

Meng was detained on a U.S. extradition request over allegations she lied to a Hong Kong banker in August 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The detention of the two Canadians is widely viewed as a reprisal in response to Meng's arrest.

Working with the U.S. to free Kovrig, Spavor

Diplomats from two dozen other Western countries were present outside the courtroom in Beijing today as Kovrig was led inside, but Canada's ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, was not among them. 

A senior government official told CBC News Monday that Barton is in Canada this week currently undergoing a 14-day quarantine period in Toronto. Barton arrived last week, and his travel plans were made before the trial dates for Kovrig and Spavor were announced. 

After his quarantine period is over, Barton will come to Ottawa, where he will have a series of meetings with cabinet and staff on a broader strategy of how to deal with China. 

Garneau said the meetings are such that they must be held face-to-face .

"There were many diplomats today in front of the courthouse in Beijing, in fact, from 23 countries," Garneau said. "That's another demonstration of how multilateral cooperation is beginning to get the message across."

Canada today joined the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union in placing sanctions on four high-ranking Chinese officials suspected of involvement in a years-long campaign of persecution against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China's western Xinjiang province.

The sanctions freeze any assets the officials have in Canada. They also ban them from travelling to Canada and bar Canadian citizens and businesses from providing them with financial services.

Canada also announced sanctions against the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau, a state-run organization responsible for security and policing.

Garneau was asked if the federal government would consider similar sanctions related to China's treatment of Kovrig and Spavor. 

"We're very much engaged with the U.S. at the moment, and that's our focus," Garneau said, noting that U.S. President Joe Biden has told Canada that he is proceeding as though the two Canadians were U.S. citizens. 

"That's where we're keeping the eye on the ball at the moment. We've made our position very clear, crystal clear to China. And the eyes of the world are watching China on arbitrary detention as well as on human rights violations."

You can watch full episodes of Power & Politics on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.

With files from the CBC's Phil Ling


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