OTTAWA: The Chinese government denies releasing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in exchange for the release of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, saying the two Canadian detainees sought bail “for medical reasons.”
At a press conference in Beijing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying took the same hostile stance toward Canada and the United States as Communist Party authorities since Meng was first arrested in Canada for US bank fraud charges on December 1, 2018.
Although Meng agreed with the US authorities’ version of Huawei’s actions, accepting that it misled a US-based financial institution to evade Iran’s sanctions and signed a deferred prosecution agreement to that effect, Chinese authorities are fighting back, continuing to claim that she was charged with a false accusation and that Canada had done America’s “dirty work” by arresting her.
If anyone thought that Meng’s release and the subsequent release of the two Michaels would lead to a détente in the relationship between Canada and China, China made it clear Monday that it is not interested.
“The Meng Wanzhou incident is a political fraud and persecution against a Chinese citizen, an act designed to hinder Chinese high-tech companies,” Hua said, praising Meng’s return to China “safe and sound.”
She went on to say that their cases were “completely different in essence.”
“Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, suspected of having committed crimes that endanger China’s national security, requested bail for medical reasons,” Hua said, a claim that Canada has not confirmed. Hua said Canada’s ambassador to China Dominic Barton had offered a guarantee ensuring his release, trying to present it as a decision based on law, not pure geopolitics.
“After the confirmation of the related departments and the diagnosis of the professional medical institutes of China and under the assurance of the Canadian ambassador to China, the Chinese courts concerned decided to release them on bail in accordance with the law and the authorities of China. national security enforced the decision. “
Hua also threatened to revoke his bail, saying: “The two defendants confessed to their crimes and must strictly abide by the bail decision made by the relevant Chinese courts. In case of violation, China can resume, in accordance with the law, the trial of the alleged criminal acts at any time while on bail. ”Hua’s comments were published in translation on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
There was no immediate response from Kovrig’s family or the Canadian government.
Vina Nadjibulla, Kovrig’s wife, told the Star on Monday that neither Kovrig nor other family members will do further interviews immediately, beyond comments over the weekend expressing deep relief and gratitude for having finally been released. Kovrig looked pale, but nonetheless strong in those brief flashes.
Sitting on the porch of his sister Ariana Botha’s house, he told Global News on Saturday: “I have been sleeping for about two hours in the last 24 hours, so I don’t have any exciting plans yet.”
Canada’s ambassador to Washington, Kristen Hillman, told CTV Question Period on Sunday that her release was set in motion due to what she called “completely independent” US court procedures to resolve the charges against Meng.
Hillman denied that the United States attaches a condition to that agreement that China would release the two Michaels, detained since December 10, 2018.
Instead, the Canadian ambassador said it was the Chinese government that said “it was time to put this behind us and move on.”
“As Ms. Meng’s resolution was heading towards success, and the parties in that discussion felt they were heading towards success, the Chinese government made its decision,” he said. “And his decision was that he was no longer interested in continuing to hold the Michaels, so they began the process of talking to our officials in Beijing about how to arrange for the Michaels to leave.”
When asked when China relayed that to Canada, Hillman said: “Obviously, we knew well in advance to have the planes in place.”
But the two men were in the dark until that day, he said.
“They knew something was going on a few hours before, but they only knew that they were actually going home moments before boarding the plane,” Hillman told host Evan Solomon.
China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, accompanied Meng on an Air China chartered plane back to Shenzhen, Hua confirmed. When asked how that squares with China’s insistence that Huawei is an independent company, Hua said the Communist Party “and the Chinese government attach great importance to safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and businesses.”
Hua, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Canada “should not have done the dirty work for the United States. Canada should learn lessons from its own interests. As for the timing, I want to point out that the unfounded detention of Meng Wanzhou is a serious mistake made by the United States and Canada, which they should have corrected a long time ago. “
On Sunday, Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau told CBC that Canada is approaching Canada-China relations with “eyes wide open,” a phrase the Canadian government has coined since Kovrig’s arrest. and Spavor, saying where it makes sense to cooperate. , Ottawa will do it in areas like climate action, for example.
Hua said Monday that “state-to-state relations can only be built on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefits. Relations between China and Canada are no exception. We hope Canada can keep its eyes open, clearly understand the situation and adopt a rational and practical Chinese policy. ”
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