Beijing blames Canada for deteriorating ties

Beijing (AFP) –


Canada should take the "entire responsibility" for a spiralling diplomatic row, China said Thursday, after Ottawa said Beijing had spurned a request for dialogue.

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated since December when police in Vancouver detained Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a US arrest warrant.

Days later China arrested two Canadians -- former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor -- in what is widely seen as a tit-for-tat move.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office said Wednesday that China had ignored a request made in January for a call with Premier Li Keqiang to "personally advocate" for the immediate release of the two Canadians, and for clemency in the case of another citizen sentenced to death for drug trafficking.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Thursday he had not heard of the approach.

"But what I can tell you is that the current difficulties in China-Canada relations are entirely caused by Canada herself, and entire responsibility for it lies with the Canadian side," Geng said at a regular press briefing.

China has said it suspects Spavor and Kovrig -- who works for the International Crisis Group think-tank -- of separately collecting and stealing state secrets.

Trudeau has said the pair were detained "for political reasons."

Canadian foreign minister Crystia Freeland last month said she had also sought a meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, to no avail.

China has also blocked Canadian agricultural shipments worth billions of dollars.

Meng is living in a Vancouver mansion on bail awaiting an extradition hearing scheduled to start in early 2020, while Spavor and Kovrig are being held in undisclosed locations.

"We hope that Canada will sincerely take note of China's serious concerns and immediately release Ms. Meng Wanzhou... and take substantive measures to bring China-Canada relations back on track as soon as possible," Geng said.

Canada's foreign ministry said its China consular officials visited Kovrig on Wednesday, the eighth time they have seen him since his detention.