OTTAWA • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said he will continue to stand up against China's "coercive diplomacy" and human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang after being rebuked by Beijing for similar comments last week.
"We will stand up loudly and clearly for human rights all around the world, whether it is talking about the situation faced by the Uighurs, whether it is talking about the very concerning situation in Hong Kong, whether it's calling out China for its coercive diplomacy," he said in a news conference.
However, Mr Trudeau said he was not looking to escalate tensions with China. A long-running diplomatic dispute heated up again when Beijing took issue with Mr Trudeau's earlier comments.
On Thursday, the Chinese envoy to Ottawa, Mr Cong Peiwu, warned Canada against granting asylum to Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.
Canadian daily The Globe and Mail said Ottawa had recently granted asylum to a Hong Kong couple, which the Canadian government has neither confirmed nor denied.
In a video press conference, Mr Cong said: "We strongly urge the Canadian side not (to) grant so-called political asylum to those violent criminals in Hong Kong because it is interference in China's domestic affairs. And certainly, it will embolden those violent criminals.
"So if the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong... you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes," Mr Cong added.
China and Canada are marking 50 years since they forged diplomatic ties - but those relations are now deeply strained.
The diplomatic dispute stems from the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese citizen, in Vancouver in late 2018 on a bank fraud warrant issued by the US authorities.
Meng has said she is innocent and is fighting extradition in a Canadian court.
Shortly after her arrest, China jailed former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian businessman Michael Spavor on charges of spying, an act widely seen in western capitals as an act of reprisal by Beijing. China also halted imports of canola seed from Canada.
In a sign of the rising tensions between the two countries, Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne had earlier slammed the Chinese ambassador's remarks as "totally unacceptable and disturbing".
For his part, the new leader of the conservative opposition, Mr Erin O'Toole, called on the Chinese diplomat "to fully retract his remarks and issue a public apology".
"Should the ambassador fail to do so expeditiously, we expect the government to withdraw his credentials," he said.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE