China’s envoy to Ottawa says that while the United States “dirtyes” their country with COVID-19, the People’s Republic appreciates Canada’s “cold” cooperation to fight the pandemic.
Ambassador Cong Peiwu also says he wants Canadians to know that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are healthy and receiving good treatment while in detention in China.
The two Canadians have been detained for more than 500 days and China suspended visits by Canadian diplomats earlier this year as part of its efforts to limit access to prisons during the pandemic.
In an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press, Cong said he had heard nothing new about a proposal by Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne to allow diplomats to conduct a “virtual” visit using the Internet to check Kovrig and Spavor.
They were imprisoned in December 2018 after Canada arrested Chinese high-tech leader Meng Wanzhou on an American extradition warrant, plunging Sino-Canadian relations to a new low.
Cong says Canada and China are working closely to fight the pandemic and is awaiting a report from his government on how one million masks that Canada imported from China have proven unsuitable for workers. health.
“China attaches great importance to quality control of exports. The relevant departments have recently drafted more stringent regulatory measures, “said Cong.
“We are still waiting for the government’s response because there was a report suggesting that some masks did not meet quality standards. We would like to see clarification, but we still do not have an answer. “
Legal issues in the Kovrig-Spavor-Meng dispute remain unchanged: China says Canada’s arrest of Meng, who faces charges of bank fraud in the United States, is unfair; Canada says that Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Spavor, an entrepreneur, have been arbitrarily arrested.
But Cong positioned Canada as an important partner for China in the ongoing battle against COVID-19 and used the interview to launch a counterattack against the United States, which temporarily suspended all funding for the Organization. world health.
Cong did not mention President Donald Trump by name, but he did refer to his administration’s accusations that the WHO had concealed the early aspects of the epidemic and that China had initially hidden information about it to the organization.
More recently, Trump and his supporters have also advanced a conspiracy theory that an infectious disease laboratory in Wuhan, China, was behind the pandemic. A US intelligence release released on Thursday indicates that the virus behind COVID-19 was not deliberately designed, but work is continuing to determine if it could have escaped from Wuhan’s laboratory during its study.
“China shares its experience while the United States coats China,” said Cong. “China has actively shared information on epidemics and anti-epidemic experiences with WHO and many other countries, including Canada. This cooperation has spread to 150 countries and international organizations, including during recent video conferences, he added.
“To spread the blame, some American politicians are trying to launch a stigma campaign against China. Attacking and discrediting other countries will not save time and lost lives. “
Cong was also asked about conservative politicians in Canada, who are asking for answers directly from the WHO and wondering if China is unduly influencing the organization.
“Now is the time to focus on fighting the pandemic. Unfortunately, some politicians have strongly politicized the COVID-19 issue. In fact, we don’t think this is the time for accusations and political manipulation, ”he replied.
Champagne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said now is not the time to point the finger that the pandemic is still a threat, but suggested that a calculation may come later.
“I believe Canada has taken a cold-minded approach,” said Cong.
“We appreciate it. The most important task now is to focus our energy on fighting the pandemic. “
He said China is committed to helping Canada get all the medical equipment and supplies it needs during the pandemic. He also said that Canada was grateful to Canada for having shipped medical supplies to China early.
China is preparing to ship 32 tonnes of diagnostic kits, N95 masks, gowns and other equipment soon, Cong said.
China is also trying to facilitate the movement of Canadian goods through crowded Shanghai airports, he said, adding that it currently has no restrictions on the length of time ground crews of cargo aircraft charters can wait on the ground to be loaded.
China and Canada recently disagreed over whether this was a factor in the return of two Canadian planes from China without the medical supplies they had been sent to pick up.
“Our two countries have a tradition of supporting each other in difficult times,” said Cong.
“As you remember, during the most difficult period in our fight against the pandemic, the Canadian side provided us with help and support, and we very much appreciate that. As the pandemic is spreading in Canada right now, we are bound to the hardships the Canadian people are going through. “
The status quo remains for Kovrig and Spavor, who are in Chinese prisons accused of spying. The Canadian government calls their arrests arbitrary. China continues to call for Meng’s release, and Canada says his extradition case will have to be heard by British Columbia. courts. The pandemic has so far practically halted these legal proceedings.
Cong said Kovrig was allowed to phone his father in March, who was “gravely ill at the time,” but he did not provide any further details. Kovrig and Spavor, along with other prisoners, are all getting better food, and they are both entitled to “higher frequency” of parcels and letters.
“They are healthy and healthy,” said Cong. “This is a message I would like to share with you. “
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 1, 2020.