WASHINGTON/OTTAWA—U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Monday for the immediate release of two Canadians charged by China with espionage, saying the United States was “extremely concerned” and that the two men’s detention was unjustified.
“These charges are politically motivated and completely groundless,” Pompeo said in a statement.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) June 22, 2020
Chinese prosecutors announced the charges on June 19 against former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, who were arrested in late 2018.
The two men were detained shortly after Canadian police detained Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on a U.S. warrant.
Canada—which says it cannot interfere in the extradition process—has so far asked allies to put pressure on Beijing to free the two men, but dismisses talk of sanctions.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Pompeo and nations that recently denounced China’s treatment of the two men, saying it was important for like-minded nations to show solidarity.
He also dismissed a suggestion that Ottawa tried to exchange Meng for the two detained men, saying that would weaken Canada’s values and the justice system.
Trudeau said the two cases were clearly linked. Earlier in the day, China said they were unrelated and repeated calls for Meng’s release.
Kovrig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, said she had obtained a legal opinion in Canada that confirmed Justice Minister David Lametti could formally end the extradition process against Meng.
“The minister can act. Whether the minister should act is a second question. And that is a conversation we should be having instead of hiding behind,” she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
“There’s a lot of people who sort of say that we need to stand up to China and we need to be tough on China. I’m not one of them. I’m not one of them because this is not about China. This is about Canada and Canadian lives that are in harm’s way. I am interested in Canada and Canadians standing up for Canadians and Canadian values.
Nadjibulla said that Ottawa could be doing more for her husband, saying words were no longer enough although she recognized that he is now a pawn in a political game set in motion by the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.
“We as Canadians, as a Canadian government, have to take action to bring him home.”
“He has been confined to a single cell this entire time. He has not gone outside, he has not seen a tree or had fresh air to breathe for 560 days,” said Nadjibulla.
She did not give details and Lametti’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
By Susan Heavey. The Epoch Times contributed to this article.