WASHINGTON/VANCOUVER • The United States joined Canada last Friday in calling on Beijing to release two Canadians detained in what are widely believed to be tit-for-tat arrests related to the high-profile detention in Canada of an executive of a major Chinese corporation.
China last week detained two Canadians - Mr Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat and an adviser with the International Crisis Group think-tank, and businessman Michael Spavor - after Canadian police arrested Huawei Technologies' chief financial officer, Ms Meng Wanzhou, on Dec 1.
"We are deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of two Canadians earlier this month and call for their immediate release," Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.
Ms Freeland said Ms Meng, also the daughter of Huawei's founder, was facing a "fair, unbiased and transparent legal proceeding", and Canada would not "compromise nor politicise the rule of law and due process".
Her words were echoed in a similar statement by US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino, who noted that Canada was honouring its international legal commitments in arresting Ms Meng, and called for the immediate release of Mr Kovrig and Mr Spavor.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement that the United Kingdom "has confidence Canada is conducting a fair and transparent legal proceeding" with respect to Ms Meng.
He said he was "deeply concerned by suggestions of a political motivation" for the detention of Mr Kovrig and Mr Spavor.
The European Union said the "declared motive" for the arrest and detention of Mr Kovrig and Mr Spavor "raises concerns about legitimate research and business practices in China".
While Ms Meng has had full access to lawyers and is able to see family, Mr Kovrig is being denied legal representation, is not allowed to see family and is limited to one consular visit a month.
The US has sought to extradite Ms Meng on charges of misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating US sanctions. The 46-year-old executive is out on bail in Vancouver.
A third Canadian, Ms Sarah McIver, was arrested last week for "working illegally" in China.