It’s no secret that China hasn’t been happy with Canada since the arrest of a top Huawei executive in Vancouver last month.
The detention, which came at the request of the U.S., sparked a diplomatic firestorm. Since Meng Wanzhou was arrested on Dec. 1, 2018, two Canadians (Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig) have been detained by Chinese officials. Also, a Canadian man convicted of drug smuggling in China was given a death sentence after appealing his original 15-year prison sentence.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accused China of acting arbitrarily, but that hasn’t deterred Beijing in the slightest. China’s ambassador to China, Lu Shaye, blasted Ottawa earlier this month for what he called “Western egotism and white supremacy.”
Just last week, Beijing’s foreign ministry accused the U.S. and Canada of abusing their bilateral extradition treaty.
More recently, Chinese publications have been zeroing in on news over the weekend that Trudeau had asked Canada’s ambassador to China to resign after John McCallum said it “would be great for Canada” if the U.S. dropped their extradition request for Meng. McCallum later said he “misspoke,” but the damage was done and the Liberals are now saying his remarks were not helpful.
Trudeau and the Liberals have said repeatedly that Canada is a country that respects the rule of law. “We have a justice system that is not subject to political interference,” the prime minister said earlier this month.
On Sunday, China’s state-run Global Times published a scathing op-ed titled “resignation reveals political interference.” The publication said Ottawa was now as “sensitive as a frightened bird” for dismissing McCallum.
“Ottawa is forcibly creating a favorable public opinion atmosphere toward extradition,” the op-ed read. “If Canada insists on wrong practice, it must pay for it.”
A day later, another Global Times op-ed warned: “The Trudeau government must properly deal with China-Canada relations, or it should be prepared for Beijing’s further retaliation.”
“Canada sometimes acts more like America’s ‘51st state’ than a sovereign country with a will of its own,” the outlet said on Dec. 10, 2018. “China’s message to Canada is clear: Canada must correct its mistake and immediately stop violating her lawful rights and interest,” the article added. “Otherwise, as the Chinese side has warned, Canada will pay a heavy price.”
For icing on the cake, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times warned in a video that “China will definitely take retaliatory measures against Canada” if Meng is not released. In a video shared by CTV News, Hu Xijin suggested the reprisals from Beijing will be “far worse than detaining a Canadian.” Hu added “it’s in Canada’s best interests to try and remain neutral” in the diplomatic spat between the U.S. and China over Huawei.
Below is a Twitter post from Hu on the Canada-China spat, accusing Ottawa of being on the wrong side of the controversy and “deceiving themselves.”
Canadian public opinion is so sensitive to Ambassador McCallum’s words because they know they are not on the right side. There are many political factors involved in Meng Wanzhou case but some Canadians dare not face this fact. Deceiving themselves makes them feel comfortable.
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) January 27, 2019
On Monday afternoon, the U.S. announced it was pursuing criminal charges against 13 Huawei executives, including Meng, which suggests this case is far from over.
And alarm bells of worry have already been ringing for some time. In an online poll on Yahoo Canada, two-thirds of respondents said they were at least a little concerned by the China-Canada rift while only 29 per cent said they were not.