Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has raised “serious concerns” over alleged Chinese interference in Canada in brief talks with China’s President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of this week’s Group of 20 (G20) meeting in Indonesia.
The prime minister’s office said in a readout on Tuesday that the two leaders discussed North Korea and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while Trudeau “also raised our serious concerns around interference activities in Canada”.
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Last week, Canadian media outlet Global News reported that Canadian intelligence officials had warned Trudeau that China was “targeting Canada with a vast campaign of foreign interference”, including through meddling in the country’s 2019 elections.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Monday also arrested a man in the province of Quebec for espionage, accusing 35-year-old Yuesheng Wang of obtaining trade secrets to benefit the Chinese government.
China’s embassy in Ottawa did not immediately respond to a request from the Reuters news agency to confirm the talks between Trudeau and Xi on Tuesday, or what was discussed.
The China-Canada relationship has been frosty for several years, especially after Canadian authorities detained Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 on a United States arrest warrant. China then arrested two Canadians on spying charges.
In June, Canada accused China of harassing its aircraft carrying out United Nations sanctions patrols near North Korea. The Chinese government responded by accusing the Canadian military of “provocations” and warned Canada that it could face “severe consequences”.
In their talks on Tuesday, Trudeau and Xi “discussed the importance of continued dialogue”, the readout from Trudeau’s office said.
The two leaders last met in June 2019 on the sidelines of another G20 in Osaka, Japan. They met three other times previously, once in 2015 on the sidelines of the G20 in Turkey, and twice during official visits in Beijing in 2016 and 2017.
“We’re talking about a relationship that has been in a deep freeze for years, so it’s not surprising that the first leader-level contact would be informal,” said Roland Paris, Trudeau’s former foreign policy adviser and professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa.
Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly also met with her Chinese counterpart on Tuesday and raised concerns over the reports of interference in Canada’s internal affairs.
“I’ve said it many times and I’ve said it to my counterpart: we won’t accept any form of meddling of foreign governments in our elections and we won’t tolerate any form of foreign interference at large in Canada – period,” Joly told reporters from the G20. “It’s not a discussion. It’s intolerable.”