Ex-Diplomats, scholars write open letter to President Xi Jinping urging release of detained Canadians in China

WION Web Team
Beijing, China Updated: Jan 22, 2019, 06:28 PM(IST)

File photo of Chinese President Xi Jiping. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The tension between China and Canada intensified recently after the authorities arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver airport for allegedly violating Iran sanctions imposed by the US. 

Over hundreds of academics, former diplomats and activists have written an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping calling for the release of two Canadians arrested on national security grounds, news agency AFP reported on Tuesday.

The tension between China and Canada intensified recently after the authorities arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver airport for allegedly violating Iran sanctions imposed by the US. 

Also read: Canadian government banning Huawei 5G network will have repercussions, says China

Following the CFO's arrest, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor on December 10. 

They were arrested for endangering "China's national security". 

Also read: Strongly urge US to immediately drop extradition request for Huawei's Meng Wanzhou, says China

Contradicting with China's claims, the letter written in English and Chinese, said that both Kovrig and Spavor worked to improve understanding between China and Canada and promoted better relations with the world. 

"Kovrig and Savor's detentions send a message that this kind of constructive work is unwelcome and even risky in China," read the page-long letter, which had 143 signatories from 19 countries.
  
According to the report, China, however, has reacted angrily to the letter. 

AFP quoted foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying calling the letter "great disrespectful" to the country.   She also said that it interferes with China's sovereignty and judicial process.

The missive was signed by six former Canadian ambassadors to China: Fred Bild, Joseph Caron, Earl Drake, David Mulroney, Guy Saint-Jacques and Robert Wright; former US ambassadors Gary Locke and Winston Lord; and Hong Kong's last British governor Chris Patten.

Former ambassadors to China from Germany, Mexico, Britain and Sweden also lent their names, along with many of the world's leading China academics, AFP reported.

The tension between Beijing and Ottawa also escalated quickly after a Chinese court sentenced a Canadian person to death on drugs trafficking charges. 

Meanwhile, David MacNaughton, in an interview with the Canadian newspaper published on Monday, said the US has told Canada it will request Meng's extradition, but he did not say when the request will be made. The deadline for filing is January 30, or 60 days after Meng was arrested on December 1 in Vancouver.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested at the request of the United States over alleged violations of US sanctions on Iran. She was released on bail last month and is due in court in Vancouver on February 6.

(With inputs from agencies)

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