US, Canada urge China to free Canadian detainees

Canada and the U.S. on Friday called for the "immediate release" of two Canadian citizens in Chinese custody, with representatives from the United Kingdom and the European Union expressing concern about the detentions.

“We are deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of two Canadians earlier this month and call for their immediate release,” Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.

Freeland said Canada was conducting a "fair" and "transparent" legal process surrounding the arrest of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou. Meng's arrest earlier this month at the request of U.S. officials raised tensions between China and Canada.

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Freeland said Canada would not back off its pursuit of justice against Meng, despite China's arrest of two Canadian citizens.

"We share with our partners the conviction that the rule of law is not a choice: it is the bedrock of democracy," she said. "Canada will not compromise nor politicize the rule of law and due process.”

Reuters reported that U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino called for the release of the two Canadians in a separate statement. He added that Canada was carrying out its legal commitments in arresting Meng. The U.S. has alleged Meng violated U.S. trade sanctions against Iran.

Officials in the United Kingdom and the European Union also issued statements on Friday expressing concerns about the detainment of the Canadians, according to Reuters.

China confirmed last week that it had detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor on suspicion of "engaging in activities that endanger the national security" of China. Kovrig has not been given access to legal representation, Reuters reported.

Officials said at the time that there was no immediate connection between his case and Meng's, but critics say they suspect retaliation may be at play.

A Canadian judge earlier this month granted Meng her release on bail while she awaits proceedings to extradite her to the U.S.