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Canadian News Jun 25, 2020 12:07 PM EST

China implies that Meng's release could trigger Spavor and Kovrig's safe return home

A spokesman for China has suggested if Canada releases Meng back to China, they may release the two detained Canadians in return.

China implies that Meng's release could trigger Spavor and Kovrig's safe return home
Quinn Patrick Montreal, QC

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

China has denied that there is any link between the detainment of two Canadians, Spavor and Kovrig as retaliation for Canada detaining Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou however a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested there could be, according to The Globe and Mail.

On Wednesday, Zhao Lijian said that the release of Meng back to China could improve the fate of Canadian diplomat Micheal Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur, the two were detained shortly after Meng's arrest. She has been held pending the result of an extradition hearing.

Zhao Lijian said that Ottawa had the legal authority to intervene with Meng's extradition and could set her free immediately. “Such options are within the rule of law and could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians,” said Zhao.

Ottawa does in fact have the legal authority to intervene in extradition cases, according to Brian Greenspan, a Toronto lawyer with years of experience working in extradition cases.

Prime Minister Trudeau has said on several occasions that they do not have such authority, reiterating that again on Monday, saying, “We’re not considering that. Canada has a strong and an independent justice system... Anyone who is considering weakening our values or weakening the independence of our justice system doesn’t understand the importance of standing strong on our principles and our values.”

Zhao Lijian disagrees, and even referenced the spouse of Mr. Kovrig, Vina Nadjibulla, who during interviews with both CBC and The Globe and Mail said they do.

“Even if it is a judicial case as the Canadian side claims, the Canadian Justice Minister has the authority to stop the extradition process at any point, as Kovrig’s wife said. This shows that the Canadian government can actually handle this incident in a just manner according to Canadian laws,” said Zhao Lijian.

The Chinese government first detained Kovrig and Spavor in December of 2018, one day after Meng's arrest at the Vancouver International Airport. The arrest was made on a US extradition request. The US has accused Meng of violating sanctions against Iran and bank fraud.

Last week the Chinese government charged both Kovrig and Spavor with espionage charges, increasing tensions between the two nations. These charges come one week after Canada denied Meng's first legal bid to strike down her extradition case.

Despite the conspicuous timing, China has always denied that there is any connection between the arrests of Spavor and Kovrig, with Zhao even urging Trudeau to "stop making irresponsible remarks" regarding any link between Meng's arrest and theirs, saying that "there is no such thing as arbitrary detention" in China and that the spying charges against Kovrig and Spavor are "completely different."

“Obviously the Chinese will jump on that legal opinion to add pressure on the government”, said Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China.

Saint-Jacques believes it to be unethical for Prime Minister Trudeau to play into Beijing's hands and legitimize this type of behaviour.

“Caving into this hostage diplomacy, I don’t think we should do that,” said Saint-Jaques. “The credibility of Canada is on the line after we have sought support from other countries to help us out.” He added that if the Trudeau government can rally other countries to stand with them, it's more likely, “that the Chinese will stop using these bullying tactics,”

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