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Trudeau ‘disappointed’ as China charges Canadians

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday he is “disappointed” that China has formally charged two Canadians with spying, more than 18 months after their arrest amid a row between Beijing and Ottawa.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were detained in December 2018, nine days after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on a US warrant, in what was seen as tit-for-tat retaliation.

“We’re of course disappointed with the decision taken by the Chinese in the case of the two Michaels,” Trudeau said, renewing calls for their release.

His deputy, Chrystia Freeland, said she was “heartbroken and really angry” and called on China to restore consular access for the pair.

Canada’s former ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, urged Ottawa to take a more aggressive stance.

“We need a strong reaction from the federal government, not just soft diplomatic talk anymore,” he told public broadcaster CBC.

The Supreme People’s Procuratorate said earlier it has begun the prosecution of Kovrig and Spavor, suspected of “foreign espionage” and “providing state secrets.”

The move follows a key ruling allowing Meng to be extradited to the US, which wants to try her on fraud charges related to the Chinese telecom giant’s alleged violations of US sanctions against Iran.

Relations between Canada and China have hit rock bottom over the arrests. Beijing has blocked billions of dollars’ worth of Canadian agricultural exports.

Trudeau said Chinese authorities have “directly linked” the case “to the judicial proceedings against Miss Meng.”

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