According to the South China Morning Post, Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne on Thursday, Aug. 27, condemned the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) position of using “coercive diplomacy” to persuade Canada to release the financial director of Huawei Technologies, Meng Wanzhou, arrested in 2018, accused of fraud and with a request for extradition to the United States.

Champagne met with his Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi, in Rome on Tuesday. In the meeting that lasted more than 90 minutes, Champagne tried to negotiate the release of two Canadian citizens who have been held in China since early 2019. 

In December 2018, Canadian police arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, with an extradition order from the United States, on charges of bank fraud and violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran. 

Nine days later, in a clear sign of revenge, the CCP arrested two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, for alleged espionage. They were only officially charged in June of this year.

Canada and its allies have denounced their arrests as “arbitrary.” And since January, Ottawa has been pushing for consular access after it was suddenly turned down.

While no agreement was reached during the meeting, Champagne said in a conference call after meeting, “I was very clear [with him] that coercive diplomacy is not going to lead to the desired outcome. (…) I told him that arbitrary detention was not conducive to relations between states ever, but certainly [not] now.” 

Wang, said Champagne, “is well aware that the international community is seized with that issue.”

Champagne took the opportunity to send a message to the democratic world, assuring that the problem in question is not just about releasing two Canadian detainees. What is aberrant is the situation of two citizens of a free democracy being imprisoned without legal grounds. And he also called on the international community to be concerned about the use of coercive diplomacy being used by the CCP, which rightly endangers the world’s democratic freedoms. 

The CCP’s Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian, said in a threatening tone at a press conference on Wednesday, “The Canadian government is well aware of the heart of the problem. It should take immediate and effective action to correct the mistakes and create the conditions to put bilateral relations back on track,” referring to Meng’s arrest.

At the same time, as reported by South China Morning Post, Wang said, “China and Canada have no historical disputes or actual conflict of interest, but because of the detention of a Chinese citizen, the relationship between the two countries has encountered serious difficulties.”