TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that Chinese officials are not respecting the diplomatic immunity of one of the Canadians detained in China last month as he ramped up efforts to get them released.
China arrested former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor on vague national security allegations.
The arrests came after a top Chinese executive was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1 at the request of Washington, which wants Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou extradited to face charges that she misled banks about the company's business dealings in Iran. She is out on bail in Canada and awaiting a bail extradition proceeding next month.
Kovrig is an analyst on northeast Asia for the International Crisis Group think tank who took a leave of absence from the Canadian government.
Canadian authorities haven't previously said he was protected by diplomatic immunity. But Trudeau asserted that Friday.
"It is unfortunate that China has arbitrarily and unfairly detained two Canadian citizens, and indeed in one of the cases is not respecting the principles of diplomatic immunity," Trudeau said.
Trudeau asserted diplomatic immunity in both French and English answers to a question but did not elaborate on why Kovrig is entitled to it.
But the prime minister reiterated that Canada was operating under the rule of law. He noted that Meng was arrested because of an extradition request and she is out on bail and living in her Canadian home. He said all countries need to respect the rule of law.
China's ambassador to Canada accused the country this week of "white supremacy" in calling for the release of the two Canadians detained in China last month, while describing the detentions as an "act of self-defense."
Canada has embarked on a campaign with allies to win the release of the detained Canadians. The United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Australia have issued statements in support.
Trudeau called U.S. President Donald Trump about it and the White House called the arrests of the Canadians "unlawful."
On Friday, Poland arrested a Huawei director and one of its own former cybersecurity experts and charged them with spying for China.
The development comes as the U.S. is exerting pressure on its allies not to use Huawei, the world's biggest maker of telecommunications network equipment, over data security concerns.