China has warned Canadian lawmakers to halt their “blatant interference” in its internal affairs, in the latest episode of a rumbling diplomatic feud between the two nations.
Earlier this week, a Canadian parliamentary committee concluded that China’s actions against ethnic Uighurs in the Xinjiang region constituted “a genocide” and called for sanctions against officials complicit in the government’s policy.
“Witnesses were clear that the government of China’s actions are a clear attempt to eradicate Uighur culture and religion,” the committee wrote.
Speaking to reporters late on Thursday, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) condemned the committee’s findings, saying that the report was “full of lies and disinformation.”
Zhao also used his news conference to level a warning, urging Canada to “exercise caution in its words and deeds ... to avoid further damage to China-Canada relations.”
China’s response underscores the extent to which relations between the two nations continue to sour.
Last week, only days after the two countries observed the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, Chinese Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu (叢培武) accused Canada of encouraging “violent criminals,” as it considered granting refugee status to Hong Kong pro-democracy advocates.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said that Cong’s remarks were “not appropriate” for a diplomat.
“Let me also reassure the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong that a Canadian is a Canadian and we will stand with them,” Freeland said.
Meanwhile, Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole called for an apology from Cong, or face expulsion.
In recent years, Canada and China had both expressed the hope of building stronger ties, but the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟) in December 2018 marked a fatal blow to relations between the two nations.
China quickly retaliated, detaining Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, charging the pair under dubious “espionage” charges.
Canada has repeatedly called for the men — who have been held for more than 650 days in “arbitrary detention” — to be released.
China last year temporarily halted canola and pork exports, a move that cost industry millions in losses, while Canada has mulled barring Huawei from building 5G mobile infrastructure in the country, citing security concerns.
Zhao on Thursday said that Canada’s report on the Uighurs had “turned a blind eye to the political stability” in the region and represented Canada’s “ignorance and prejudice” on the topic.
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