China has granted consular access to two Canadians detained in the country for the first time since January as the diplomatic standoff between the two nations continued.
The Canadian government said on Saturday that Dominic Barton, Canada’s ambassador to China, was granted virtual consular access to Michael Spavor on Friday and virtual consular access to Michael Kovrig on Saturday.
“The Canadian government remains deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of these two Canadians since December 2018 and continues to call for their immediate release,” the government said in a statement.
Canada continues to press Beijing to release Kovrig and Spavor, who were detained in December 2018 following Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese Huawei official and the daughter of the company’s founder.
Canadian police detained Meng in Vancouver on a US extradition request nine days before Kovrig and Spavor were arrested.
The US is seeking Meng’s extradition on fraud charges and her extradition case is before the Canadian courts. Her arrest severely damaged relations between China and Canada.
Neither Kovrig, a former diplomat, nor Spavor, an entrepreneur, were permitted visits from consular officials amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Huawei case has strained relations between Canada and China, and Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and the US president, Donald Trump, discussed the matter in a phone call on Saturday.
Trudeau thanked Trump for the United States’ support in “seeking the immediate release of the two Canadian citizens arbitrarily detained by China,” the Canadian government said.