Trudeau attacks China’s “political” imprisonment of two Canadians after prison letters sent from Beijing were published

Trudeau spoke days after Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were officially charged with spying and handling state secrets. The two were first arrested in late 2018 in the weeks following the arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese technology company Huawei, on charges filed in the United States.

“It was obvious from the beginning that it was a political decision made by the Chinese government, and we regret it,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa, adding that we “do not consider” any trafficking of the two men with detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

“Anyone who thinks about weakening our values ​​or weakening the independence of our judicial system does not understand the importance of our values,” he added.

His remarks came after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian criticized both Canada and the United States for their comments on the case. At a regular press conference this week, Zhao said that “the Chinese judiciary handles cases independently and guarantees the legal rights of those Canadian citizens in accordance with the law.”

“We call on the Canadian leader to respect the rule of law and Chinese judicial sovereignty and stop making irresponsible remarks,” he added.

Chinese officials did not disclose any evidence against the two, nor data detailing their alleged crimes, but said, “the facts are clear and the evidence is solid.”

Replacing potential prisoners?

In Canada, there is growing pressure for the Trudeau government to do something about the “two Michael” case as it is known there.

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The CBC on Tuesday interviewed several legal experts who agreed that Trudeau could intervene in the Meng case if he wished, although the prime minister had previously said it would undermine the independence of the judiciary.

“The question is not whether (the Canadian government) can, the question is whether it should,” said Toronto-based lawyer Brian Greenspan. “The minister has the right to withdraw the authority to continue and end the extradition proceedings, and it is entirely up to the will of the minister of justice.”

A person familiar with the situation told CNN last year that Canadian diplomatic efforts so far have focused on trying to resolve what remains a complex political entanglement.

There is a bigger geopolitical game going on between China and the US in which Canada is somehow in the middle, the person added, and that is two Canadians paying the price.

Former Canadian Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, who served as Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien in the early 2000s, said earlier that he would recommend “exchanging prisoners, no matter how expensive it may seem.”

“These young men are in prison in very difficult conditions for one and only reason: the actions of the Canadian government and the Canadian government should do everything to release them,” he added. “What I’m most afraid of is: The United States is concluding a trade agreement with China. And withdrawing the extradition request. Madame Meng was released immediately. Then we have no influence and they will make us wait, and we may wait years to see these two young men they’re coming home. “

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Emotional letters

Speaking to the Canadian Globe and the post office on Monday, Bennett Kovrig, the father of one of the detainees, said that “inaction is now the same as historical betrayal.”

“China has long been intimate that it is only interested in repatriating Meng and will retaliate immediately by releasing the two Michaels,” Bennett Kovrig said. “Trudeau keeps repeating that he will not ask for such an agreement. However, there is no alternative.”

Earlier this week, the newspaper published a series of letters sent Kovriga to his wife Vini Nadjibulla.

“He writes about the meaning of life, the meaning of suffering,” Nadjibulla told the newspaper. In one letter, he actually said, “I now believe that the meaning of life is to alleviate suffering. “”

Although reckless and reflective, Kovrig’s letters, which are censored and monitored by the Chinese authorities, offer several details about his circumstances. Consular visits have been suspended since January due to a coronavirus pandemic.

“If there is one faint silver coating in this hell, it is this: trauma has carved caverns of psychological pain through my mind,” Kovrig wrote in a letter. “As I struggle to heal and recover, I come across to fill those chasms with love for you and for a life that is vast, deep and deep and more comforting than I have ever experienced before.”

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