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Trudeau rejects China prisoner swap; Pompeo denounces charges

Kait Bolongaro
Bloomberg

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected calls for his government to send Huawei Technologies Co.’s chief financial officer back to China in exchange for two Canadian prisoners.

“No. We’re not considering that. Canada has a strong and independent justice system,” Trudeau said Monday at a press conference in Ottawa.

The firm rebuff of a high-stakes quid pro quo comes as the Canadian leader rallies international support in an increasingly bitter diplomatic feud with China, the nation’s second largest trading partner.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic outside his residence at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Ontario, on Thursday, June 18, 2020.

Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou in December 2018 at Vancouver’s airport on a handover request. She is fighting extradition to the U.S., which accuses her of lying to HSBC Holdings PLC and tricking the bank into breaching U.S. sanctions against Iran. She remains confined to a home in Vancouver while the case proceeds.

Soon after her arrest, China detained two Canadians – Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor – and last week indicted them on spying charges.

Politically Motivated

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Monday the U.S. is “extremely concerned” about China’s decision to proceed with charges, which he said are “politically motivated and completely groundless.”

The U.K. is also speaking out. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted his support of Canada on the weekend, saying London shares a “deep concern” of the charges.

Calls to resolve the issue with a prisoner exchange have come from prominent members of Trudeau’s Liberal Party, including John Manley, a former deputy prime minister.

“Anyone who’s considering weakening our values or the independence of our justice system doesn’t understand the importance of standing strong on our principles and on our values,” Trudeau said Monday.

Trudeau said Chinese officials have highlighted the link between the Meng’s arrest and the detention of Kovrig and Spavor.

“It has been obvious from the beginning that this was a political decision made by the Chinese government and we deplore it and have from the very beginning,” the prime minister said.