Trudeau rejects calls to release Meng Wanzhou
PM rejects calls from 19 prominent Canadians to set Meng free to secure the release of 2 Canadians
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dismissed out of hand calls from former parliamentarians and diplomats to release Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and unilaterally end her extradition process — saying such a move would embolden China to detain other Canadians to further its political goals.
A group of 19 high-profile Canadians, including former foreign affairs ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Lawrence Cannon, penned a letter to Trudeau this week saying Justice Minister David Lametti should intervene to free Meng.
They said Meng's release would give Canada the chance to "redefine its strategic approach to China."
"There is no question that the U.S. extradition request has put Canada in a difficult position. As prime minister, you face a difficult decision. Complying with the U.S. request has greatly antagonized China," the letter says. CBC News obtained the letter Wednesday.
The letter writers said Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are likely to languish in Chinese prison until Meng's extradition case is settled. The two Canadians were detained in China shortly after Meng was detained in Vancouver in 2018.
Trudeau was definitive that Canada would not bow to Beijing to secure the freedom of these two men.
"I respect these distinguished Canadians who put forward that letter but I deeply disagree with them," Trudeau told reporters Thursday. "They're wrong in their approach."
Trudeau said he is sympathetic to the plight of Spavor and Kovrig — he called it a "terrible and trying situation" — but he said Canada can't let China get away with this sort of hostage diplomacy.
Watch: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejects calls to release Meng Wanzhou
He said countries shouldn't be allowed to snatch Canadians to get what they want from Ottawa.
"The reality is releasing Meng Wanzhou to resolve a short-term problem would endanger thousands of Canadians who travel to China and around the world by letting countries know that a government can have political influence over Canada by randomly arresting Canadians," Trudeau said.
Trudeau said his government is firmly committed to the rule of law and Meng's case will be handled by our justice system.
"We need to continue to be absolutely crystal clear that Canada has an independent judiciary and those processes will unfold independently of any political pressure, including by foreign governments," Trudeau said. "We deplore what China did."
When asked if he would consider levying sanctions on top Communist party officials — a dozen senators sent a letter yesterday urging such action — Trudeau said his government is open to any action against China that does not "endanger other Canadians in the future."
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Trudeau's "weak leadership" and "policy appeasement" has made it difficult for Canada to get the two Michaels back.
Scheer said Trudeau should take a hard line against China by pulling Canadian money from the Chinese-controlled Asian Infrastructure Bank and ramping up inspections of Chinese exports.
"He's tried precisely nothing to improve Canada's position, to give us more leverage and to show the government of China that there are consequences to mistreating Canadians," Scheer said.
Scheer also said he agrees with the prime minister that Canada shouldn't hand over Meng as part of some sort of hostage swap.
"I don't believe that setting aside the rule of law is an appropriate response to two Canadians being detained illegally," Scheer told reporters.