Ottawa | Reuters — Canada and China are both “furious” over the case of a Huawei executive detained in Canada in 2018 and its aftermath, but there are signs the two sides can hold constructive talks, the Canadian ambassador to Beijing said Wednesday.
Canadian police picked up Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. arrest warrant in December 2018, after which China arrested two Canadian citizens on security charges and blocked imports of canola seed.
“We’re angry, we’re very angry because of our people that have been taken. China is very angry as well, furious, we’re both furious,” Dominic Barton told a special committee of legislators looking into ties with Beijing.
Barton was appointed Canada’s envoy to China in September 2019.
“The first conversation I had there was probably one of the most unpleasant conversations I have ever had… there wasn’t even a basis to have a discussion,” he said.
The first phase of the legal battle over whether Meng should be extradited to the United States wrapped up last month. China demanded Ottawa release her but the Canadian government says it will not interfere in the judicial process.
Barton noted what he called small improvements in relations, such as China’s decision last year to lift a ban on imports of Canadian meat products.
“There’s a momentum — they want to have this sorted and we want to have this sorted… I see lots of green shoots,” he told legislators.
Barton also noted progress in talks on lifting the canola seed ban but said there had been no results yet, and praised China’s efforts to combat a major coronavirus outbreak.
Barton said bilateral ties could not properly be restored until the release of the two detained Canadians, however. China’s foreign ministry said in December 2019 that their case had been turned over to prosecutors.
“I am unbelievably inspired by their resilience,” he said.
— David Ljunggren is a Reuters political correspondent in Ottawa.