Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States (US) President Donald Trump denounced China’s “arbitrary detention” of two Canadians during a telephone call Monday, officials said.
“The prime minister thanked the president for the strong statements of support by the United States in response to the arbitrary detention of two Canadians in China,” Trudeau’s office said in a statement.
“The two leaders agreed to continue to seek their release.”
China last month detained former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, accusing them of activities that “endanger China’s security.”
Kovrig is a senior advisor at the International Crisis Group think tank, while Spavor facilitates trips to North Korea, including visits by former basketball star Dennis Rodman.
Though no link has been officially made, the arrests are thought to be in retaliation for Canada’s 1 December arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei
She was detained on a request from the United States, which has accused her of violating sanctions on Iran.
Trump and Trudeau discussed the US extradition request. “They reaffirmed the importance of respecting judicial independence and the rule of law,” said Trudeau’s office.
Earlier on Monday, a delegation of Canadian parliamentarians visiting China pressed Chinese officials to release the two detained Canadians.
“We made it clear that from the standpoint of advancing important bilateral relations between Canada and China, that this represents a major chill,” opposition Conservative MP Michael Cooper told the Globe and Mail in a telephone interview from Shanghai.
“Frankly, it is completely unacceptable that they are more or less denied access to consular services, they have been denied access to a lawyer, the detention conditions in which they are under are completely unacceptable. All of those points were raised,” he said.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has said the arrests set a “worrying precedent” for the entire international community.
Britain, France, Germany and the European Union have all also issued statements expressing concerns about the arrests.
Meng has been released on bail pending the outcome of an extradition hearing. Her next court appearance is in February.