Harper to meet Chinese president after all
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao during an international summit in Vietnam this week despite earlier reports that Beijing had refused a meeting.
On Wednesday, Canadian officials said China rejected a private meeting reportedly because of Ottawa's criticisms of its human rights record and a case involving a Chinese-Canadian man being held prisoner.
But on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a news conference in Beijing that Hu would meet Harper. She said, however, China rejects any criticism of its human rights situation.
"We oppose any country making irresponsible remarks on the internal affairs of China," Jiang said.
The two leaders will be in Hanoi along with 19 other world leaders to discuss trade and security issues at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) conference on the weekend. It wasn't immediately clear what form the meeting between Harper and Hu would take.
Harper arrived in Hanoi shortly before 7:30 a.m. ET on Thursday.
Canada won't back down over rights concerns: PM
Relations between Canada and China have become strained in recent months.
Since the Harper government took power, federal representatives have awarded honorary Canadian citizenship to Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and have accused China of commercial espionage. There has also been criticism of religious persecution in China.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday while on his plane en route to the conference, Harper said his government would not abandon "important Canadian values" by toning down criticisms of China's human rights record to improve trade relations with Beijing.
Harper said the Chinese, in an "unusual" move, asked for the meeting during the APEC conference and then called off the meeting after he agreed.
The prime minister said he could not explain the initial snub.
"This is not the only incident of the Chinese demanding or asking for a meeting and then declining it once it is accepted and it is a pattern that kind of perplexes us," he said.
Ottawa had indicated it would like to discuss a number of issues, including the case of Chinese-Canadian Huseyin Celil, who is being held in a Chinese prison for allegedly having links to Muslim separatist extremist groups in his native Xinjiang province.
China has not recognized his Canadian citizenship, while his family says he is being singled out and discriminated against because he is a Muslim. The Harper government is insisting that he should be released.
Harper hinted that the Chinese were trying to put conditions on what subjects could be discussed during the meeting.
With files from the Canadian Press