MONTREAL: Canada must have an “urgent rethink” of its relationship with China, former prime minister Brian Mulroney said on Wednesday (Jul 1) as tensions build over the possible extradition to the United States of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
Conservative Mulroney backed his Liberal successor Justin Trudeau’s rejection of any exchange of Meng, who was arrested in Vancouver in December 2018, for two Canadians who were detained in China in apparent retaliation.
Mulroney said Canada’s hope that China would emerge as a constructive partner in international relations had been proven wrong, referring in particular to Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea.
“You can see it everywhere from the South China Sea to our two citizens who were bundled off to jail for no reason at all except to protest an extradition decision in Vancouver,” Mulroney told The Globe and Mail.
“There has to be an immediate and urgent rethink of our entire relationship.
“We’re a civilised important nation in the world. We have an extradition treaty with the United States of America. We were asked to honour it, and we did, and that’s what we should have done.”
The Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, were both detained in China nine days after Canada arrested Meng.
The two men have been held largely incommunicado since December 2018 and were slapped with spy charges after a Canadian judge ruled that extradition proceedings against Meng could go ahead.
Resetting the relationship should also mean the US “helping us, working with us to get our citizens back,” Mulroney said.
He added that Canada should exclude Huawei from deployment of 5G telecoms in Canada, as it threatened the exchange of information between the “Five Eyes” countries – United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
“We have to preserve our relationship with the Five Eyes and whatever that takes, that is what we do,” Mulroney said, adding that he believed the United States would withhold intelligence from members who allowed Huawei to participate in their 5G networks.
Washington says Huawei 5G poses risks of espionage and sabotage of western networks.