Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he remains hopeful his government will soon bring home two Canadians detained in China, while also renewing criticism of the men’s ongoing “arbitrary detention”.
Speaking to reporters outside his home in Ottawa on Friday, Trudeau said Canada is still working to secure the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
Chinese authorities detained Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Spavor, a businessman, on allegations of espionage in 2018 shortly after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on an extradition order from the United States.
“This will be the third Christmas that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor spend in arbitrary detention in China,” Trudeau said.
“I remain hopeful to receive good news an hour from now, a day from now, a week from now, a month from now. We continue to work and be optimistic that we’re going to be able to bring them home.”
The men’s detention in China and Meng’s ongoing extradition case in Canada has bolstered tensions between the two countries, with Canadian officials repeatedly hitting out against Beijing for its human rights record.
China has repeatedly accused Canada of meddling in its internal affairs and said that Meng’s arrest is politically motivated.
Earlier this month, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a news briefing Kovrig and Spavor had been indicted and tried on suspicions of “endangering China’s national security”.
But a day after that announcement, Canada said it had spoken with Chinese officials and confirmed the pair had not yet gone to trial.
“The two men were indicted on June 19, but have yet not gone to trial,” Canadian government spokeswoman Christelle Chartrand said in an email to Al Jazeera.
On Friday, Trudeau once again had harsh words for China over the men’s continued detention.
“China’s approach in the way it’s been conducting itself is not improving its relations with any country around the world and indeed is harming its own interests,” he told reporters.
“We will continue to pursue every avenue to bring the two Michaels home as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, hearings in Meng’s extradition case wrapped up earlier this week in the westernmost Canadian province of British Columbia.
The US has accused the Huawei chief financial officer of fraud – an allegation she has denied.
Media outlets reported in early December that the US Justice Department was in discussion with Meng’s lawyers to reach a deal that would allow Meng to return to China in exchange for admitting some wrongdoing.