Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday there was no link between sanctions against China over its crackdown on its Uighur minority and Beijing’s prosecution of two Canadians for alleged espionage.
“There is no connection between these two events,” Trudeau told a news conference when asked if Canada and its allies blacklisted former and current officials in the Xinjiang region in order to pressure China into releasing Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.
The sanctions unveiled earlier by the European Union, United States, Britain and Canada coincided with Kovrig’s closed-door trial, which ended with no verdict. Spavor’s hearing was held last Friday.
Trudeau said the action aimed to “demonstrate together our refusal to accept human rights abuses and mistreatment of the Uighurs,” a Muslim minority in Western China.
The countries, which accuse China of widespread abuses and forced labor in Xinjiang, also targeted the state-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
Representatives of 26 countries — including Britain, France and the United States — gathered outside a Beijing courthouse on Monday, according to Jim Nickel, the charge d’affaires of the Canadian embassy, and were “lending their voice” for Kovrig’s immediate release.
UPDATE: Trudeau says no link between trials of detained Canadians, fresh sanctions on Chinahttps://t.co/4cOtktuTbg
— Rachel Gilmore (@atRachelGilmore) March 22, 2021
The former diplomat was detained in 2018 and formally charged last June with spying at the same time as his compatriot, businessman Michael Spavor.
“We have seen to what extent countries from all over the world have joined in the concerns of Canadians for the wellbeing of the two Michaels and also for the principles of the rule of law and the values we hold dear as democracies,” Trudeau commented.
“We will continue to be very, very clear that their arbitrary detention is unacceptable. We will continue to demand their release,” he said.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk