Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday – the 500th day of China’s controversial detention of two Canadians – that consular visits had been blocked due to a coronavirus lockdown of prisons.
“We have been working extremely diligently on the issue of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who have been detained for 500 days in China,” Trudeau told a daily briefing.
Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, speaking during a video event hosted by the Montreal International Relations Council (CORIM), described the detention as “500 days too many.”
The Canadian businessman and former diplomat were detained in December 2018 in apparent retaliation for the arrest in Vancouver of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a US warrant.
The United States wants her extradited to face trial on charges related to the Chinese telecom equipment maker’s alleged violations of US sanctions against Iran.
Kovrig, who is accused with Spavor of gathering Chinese state secrets, last month was permitted to speak on the phone to his ill father.
Trudeau said Champagne “very recently” protested to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi the pair’s continued detention, saying he “expressed our continued concerns and desire to see them released.”
He said that China had suspended monthly consular visits to limit the spread of the coronavirus to its prison population but added that Kovrig and Spavor “are in a facility in a region that is not particularly affected by COVID-19.”
“We are continuing to press (Beijing) both for more details and for better access,” Trudeau said.