OTTAWA — Canada and its Western allies’ calls for the release of two Canadians detained in China are rooted in white supremacy, the Chinese ambassador said in a published op-ed Wednesday.
Experts and analysts say the harsh language from the Chinese government’s representative indicates the raw nerve that Canada has touched within the communist government with its efforts to recruit international support for its detainees.
The U.S State Department has called for the release of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, while Germany, France, Britain, the European Union and Australia have also issued supportive statements.
In an essay in the Hill Times, which covers Parliament and the federal government, Ambassador Lu Shaye questioned whether countries such as the U.S. and Britain are truly representative of the international community and he reiterated his government’s assertion that Western countries are employing a “double standard” in judging his country.
“The reason why some people are used to arrogantly adopting double standards is due to Western egotism and white supremacy,” Lu wrote. “What they have been doing is not showing respect for the rule of law, but mocking and trampling the rule of law.”
Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave, and Spavor, an entrepreneur, were arrested after Canada detained Chinese telecommunications executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States, which wants her extradited to face fraud charges.
Conservative MP Michael Cooper, who is travelling with a parliamentary delegation of MPs and senators in China this week, said Lu’s remarks don’t warrant a response.
“I don’t think that there’s anything that can be said to that because it’s absurd,” Cooper said in a telephone interview from southern China.
In their meetings with Chinese officials, Cooper said, the delegation has been “emphasizing the facts” that differentiate the circumstances faced by Meng in Canada and Kovrig and Spavor in China.
“The facts are: Ms. Meng was arrested pursuant to Canada’s obligations under its extradition treaty with the United States. Ms. Meng’s rights have been protected. She’s been provided bail. She has access to consular services. She has access to a lawyer,” said Cooper. “By contrast, the situation involving Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig is exactly the opposite of that.”
Meng has had a bail hearing in open court and has been released on conditions, while neither Kovrig nor Spavor has been formally charged or had access to lawyers.
The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa did not reply to a request for comment, and has repeatedly refused interview requests from The Canadian Press in recent weeks.
Last month, the Globe and Mail also published an op-ed from Lu in which he called Meng’s arrest in Canada “a miscarriage of justice” that has “chilled” the feelings of the Chinese people towards Canada. Lu wrote that Canada was complicit in a U.S. “witch hunt.”
“The ambassador will have been instructed to reply, which is a sign that the criticism China is receiving is beginning to strike home,” said David Mulroney, who was the Canadian ambassador to China between 2009 and 2012. “He sort of throws a whole bunch of things at the wall in the hope that something will stick.”
But the Chinese have upped the rhetorical ante considerably by invoking western egotism and white supremacy, said Fen Hampson, the head of the global-security program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont.
“They are undermining their own position — or to paraphrase Queen Gertrude in Hamlet, ‘the Chinese doth protest too much, methinks,’ ” said Hampson. “The Chinese will invariably complain about double standards, but when it comes to the rule of law and human rights it is abundantly clear that they have one standard and Western democracies have another.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Canada has followed the rule of law in arresting Meng because of its extradition law with the U.S. She and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have stressed that the arrest of Meng was a legal matter that was divorced from politics.
Freeland’s spokesman Alex Lawrence reiterated Canada’s call for Kovrig and Spavor to be released immediately and reaffirmed the international support Canada is receiving.
“We are deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of two Canadians last month,” said Lawrence. “Canada remains closely engaged with partners, who have also spoken in support of these detained Canadians and the rule of law, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the EU, the United States, and Australia.”
Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press