Canadian view of China worsens as row drags into second year

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 12 2019 05:04 AM

Canadians have soured on China, according to a poll released Wednesday, as a diplomatic crisis over tit-for-tat detentions of a Chinese tech executive and two Canadians drags into a second year.

Two-thirds of 1,499 respondents surveyed in recent weeks by Angus Reid said they had an unfavorable view of Canada's second-largest trading partner, up from 51 percent in 2018.

Nine out of ten said they believe China cannot be trusted to uphold human rights and refrain from interfering politically in judicial matters.

"While the Trudeau government considers its options to resolve simmering tensions, Canadians are growing more frustrated with China," Angus Reid said a statement.

Relations between Canada and China hit rock bottom following the December 2018 arrest in Vancouver of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou -- and China's detention just nine days later of former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor.

Originally detained on a US warrant, Meng is out on bail awaiting an extradition hearing due to start in January. The US wants to put her on trial for allegedly lying to banks about violating Iran sanctions.

Kovrig and Spavor are languishing in China's opaque penal system, accused of gathering state secrets. Their case was handed to prosecutors this week for review.

Obtaining the pair's release has been a top priority of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government, which is also concerned about a significant dropoff in bilateral trade.

But Canadian lawmakers think it is not enough and, in a rebuke late Tuesday, voted against his minority government to set up a committee to examine relations with Beijing.

The committee -- to be composed of 12 MPs -- will sit from January and will have the power to call Trudeau and the Canadian ambassador to China as witnesses.

Canadians, according to the Angus Reid poll, are conflicted about Meng's arrest after seeing the strain it has put on the relationship with China.

Half of respondents told Angus Reid it was the correct decision while the other half believe Canada should have resisted the US request to arrest Meng.

In the meantime, Ottawa continues to mull a US demand to block Huawei from supplying Canada's 5G networks over security concerns.

According to the poll, seven in ten Canadians believe Ottawa should not allow Huawei to sell equipment to domestic telecoms companies for their next-generation networks.