On January 17, 2019, Ambassador Lu Shaye hosted a press conference with the Chinese and foreign media at the Chinese Embassy. Journalists from CBC, The Canadian Press, CTV, The Globe and Mail, National Post, The Hill Times, Toronto Star, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, Xinhua News Agency, People’s Daily, CCTV, China News Service, Fairchild TV, Sept Days and other media attended the press conference. The transcript is as follows:
Ambassador LU Shaye: Ladies and gentlemen, members of the media, good afternoon. It’s my pleasure to host all of you today at the Chinese Embassy in Canada. It seems to be an annual tradition for me to meet with the Canadian media at the beginning or the end of each year. I remember last time we met at the end of 2017 at my residence. We exchanged views on a wide range of issues. I originally intended to meet with all of you at some time in 2018, but as we all know, on December 1 there was the detention of Ms. Meng Wanzhou. I have been very busy and preoccupied with handling this issue. So it has been delayed. Following her detention, there have been other issues as well as new developments. As you can see, Chinese Embassy has released statements on these issues on our website. Today, I am glad that we have the opportunity to meet with each other in person and I am sure that you must have lots of questions to ask.
Today, it is also a good opportunity for me to introduce to you a new member of our team. Mr. Zhang Haitao, Counsellor and spokesperson of Chinese Embassy. His predecessor Mr. Yang Yundong, who has been working here diligently for the past 5 years and maintaining good working relationships with Canadian media. Mr. Yang is leaving Canada soon. I believe Mr. Zhang will continue to carry out frequent exchanges and cooperation with you. We look forward to your support. Now I will open the floor to questions.
Toronto Star: Ambassador, I would like to know why has China not directed its main objections to the arrest of Ms. Meng Wanzhou at the United States, which is the country charging Ms. Meng abroad? Does China believe that the Canadian Prime Minister has any influence over the Canadian court when the Canadian government says it must follow the extradition treaty between Canada and the U.S.?
Ambassador LU Shaye: Based on the U.S. request to Canada on the arrest of Ms. Meng, we not only lodged representations with the Canadian side, but also with the U.S. side. There is no issue of who do we lodged the representations mainly with. Maybe you feel this way is because that Ms. Meng now is currently detained in Canada, not in the U.S.. As for your second question about the belief by some Chinese that the Canadian Prime Minister and the Canadian government have influence on Canadian court, this is not a statement made by the Chinese side. It is actually implied and indicated by relevant Canadian laws and the extradition treaty between Canada and the U.S.. After all, Canada is currently run by Liberal Government. As the government of Canada, it is of course the main channel of our communication.
The Globe and Mail: Can you state whether the arrest of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are retaliations or reprisals for the arrest of Ms. Meng that you want her release before those two gentlemen be released? Are you able to say how many Canadians have been detained in China since December 1 when Ms. Meng was detained in Canada?
Ambassador Lu: As for the statement that the compulsory measures taken against the two Canadian nationals are reprisals against the detention of Ms. Meng, it is not made by the Chinese side, rather these remarks are made by the Canadian media. I have never made any statement like this in any occasion. On the other hand, I believe these are two different matters of very different nature. The detention of Ms. Meng is groundless because she did not violate any Canadian law. But the detention of two Canadian nationals was due to suspicion of their engagement of activities that endanger Chinese national security. Ms. Meng is innocent. But based on the relevant information as reported so far, China does have legal charges against these two Canadian nationals. Since the arrest of Ms. Meng, as for how many Canadians have been detained in China, I don’t have the specific number. According to Canadian media reports, there are over 200 Canadian nationals detained in China. But there are 900 Canadians detained in the U.S.. China is a country based on the rule of law. China will not arbitrarily detain or arrest anyone. Any nationals around the world, as they abide by Chinese laws and regulations, their safety and security in China can be assured.
CTV: Ambassador, you have used very strong languages since this dispute began, comparing Canada’s reaction as “white supremacy”. I was wondering what measures China think Canada can take to deescalate and resolve the ongoing diplomatic disputes? Secondly, what effect does this have on our trade relationships? When our Prime Minister was in Beijing, he offered to begin the free trade talks or to initiate it to some point. Are these talks suspended? Or will it be pending until the resolution of the Meng Case?
Ambassador Lu: The Canadian media have very strong reaction to my article published last week, probably mainly due to some of the expression I used in the article including the “white supremacy”. Please note that I used this kind of expression in a critical tone, not the other way around. And I was not accusing the entire Canadian society but rather some people in the society. I do have evidence to support my arguments. As you can see from the article, there are very clearly explained points supporting this view that some people still remain the out-dated mindset. I understand that the Canadian government and the Canadian society resolutely oppose “white supremacy”. But this kind of opposition does not mean that it dose not exist in Canada. Some people do have deep-rooted views or values of “white supremacy”. When the external environment or condition changes, these views or values will be revealed. Recently, I noticed the remarks by Mr. Ralph Goodale, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety in the University of Regina that “white supremacy” is indeed a concern of Canada.
As whether the recent unpleasant developments in Canada-China relationship have impacted the bilateral trade relations, the answer is yes indeed. Both sides have been very active pushing forward the free trade talks. We have already conducted 4 rounds of exploratory discussions, and a lot of differences have already been resolved. But due to some new factors emerged recently, this process has been affected. But this is not caused by China. China and Canada are important trading partners to each other. China plays a much larger role in Canada’s foreign trade than Canada does in China’s foreign trade. It can be predicted that the bilateral trade volume between China and Canada in 2018 would exceed 100 billion Canadian dollars. Canada’s exports to China are growing at faster pace than its imports from China. The Canadian government has been working to implement a trade diversification strategy, and China can be an important partner in that process. The Chinese government always values its economic and trade relations with Canada and we will continue to enhance the cooperation. When the conditions are ripe, we would like to continue the free trade talks.
CCTV: I have been living in Canada for 3 years by now. I know that Chinese people have very positive impression of Canada. In Chinese media, there is rarely any negative reports about Canada. However, by sharp contrast, the Canadian media seems to be very critical of China as there are lots of criticism against China. What’s your comment?
Ambassador Lu: You are not alone for this impression. I feel the same way. Before I came to Canada, I also had very good impression of Canada, which mainly came from Chinese media’s reports. Actually, Chinese media has very just, fair and comprehensive reports and coverage of Canada, some of which are even prettified. But after I arrived at Canada, I began to read Canadian reports of China and I felt that lots of them were quite different from the China I usually know. I remember that my very first public speech in Canada was made in April, 2017 in Toronto. During the speech, I shared my view with the audiences about Canadian media’s unjust and unfair reports of China. I also began to think about the possible reasons behind that. I believe that there could be following reasons if I am right.
First, Canadian media tries to focus more on the negative side of China. No countries is immune from problems or weaknesses. But it is the overarching voice that determines the image of a country. If the Canadian media keeps on reporting about the negative aspects of China, then inevitably it will give the general Canadian public the impression that China is a very negative country. Even if the matter itself is small in nature, when it is magnified through the Canadian media, it can sound very alarming. Even I read some Canadian news reports of China which are positive in general, the tone seems to be negative as sometimes it is in a mocking way.
Secondly, some people in the Canadian media seem to have intrinsic views that China is not a western democracy, and China’s political system and China’s doctrines and mentalities are very different. And these differences are not right. With these differences, no good outcome will come of it. Some of the media will modify facts in order to make their report consistent with their preconceived ideas and prejudices. Actually, a lot of Canadians after visiting China will ask themselves why the Canadian media reports never present a full picture of what China really is. Because some media people have such outdated views, they will use double standards in their reports. The core message conveyed in my article last week is that, anything as long as done by western countries is right, but when the same thing done by China is not right. Influenced by these negative reports in a long run, it is not surprising that a lot of Canadians have a rather negative view about China. And this kind of media atmosphere is not conducive to the development of our bilateral relations. Therefore, I hope more people from the Canadian media could pay more visits to China and send more permanent journalists to China to report China in an objective way.
Fairchild TV: Given the recent development between China and Canada, what do you think would be the impacts on the Chinese living in Canada? What is your advice to these Chinese considering the differences between our two countries?
Ambassador Lu: Indeed, there is a large Chinese community in Canada and they are of Chinese origin and they may hold Canadian passports. So it is very regrettable that so many negative events happened recently, which do have some impacts on Chinese living in Canada. I hope that the Chinese-Canadians here in Canada could live a good life and have a good career and deal with these issues in an appropriate way. We hope that these Chinese-Canadians could serve as a bridge connecting China and Canada, and contribute to the bilateral exchanges and cooperation of both countries. And even they can play an active role in trying to ease the current tensions between China and Canada. Canada is such a diverse and multicultural country. I think these Chinese-Canadians would not be significantly affected.
Canadian Press: Could you explain to Canadians about the justice system of China as many Canadian people are talking about the differences? How long do you think Chinese officials will decide and charge Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig whether they violate Chinese law? Ms. Meng had an open public hearing in Canada and is on bail to stay at home. But there is few consular visits for these two Canadians and they have not appeared again in the public since their arrest. How do you explain these differences?
Ambassador Lu: Canada and China have two different social systems and of course, there are differences in our judicial systems. But both countries make it clear that they enjoy the rule of law. While there are differences in our judicial systems, there are also similarities. For example, Canada pursuits the judicial independence, and it is the same in China that the judicial courts are also independent. The Canadian government can not interfere with the courts, the same is true with China. Canada puts a lot of emphasis on due process, the same can be also said in China.
But the two cases you mentioned are different in nature, so the handling of these two cases are different. As for the two Canadian citizens, they were taken compulsory measures in China in accordance with law for involvement in activities that endanger China’s national security, which is different from regular criminal cases and requires further investigation. You can not criticize China of any wrongdoing simply based on how these two very different cases are handled differently in Canada and China. China acts in accordance with the international common practices. Although you regard the measures taken by China to the two Canadian citizens as irregular, actually there are similar practices in many other countries. I mean western countries such as the U.S..
The Wall Street Journal: Ambassador, Canada is conducting security review to the telecommunication networks, do you not have any concern that this diplomatic row between China and Canada could sway Canada to the side of the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, and decide to not allow equipment from Huawei Technologies to be used in 5G networks. And as a follow up, if Canada decides to go this route and not allow Huawei’s equipment in Canada, will there be any repercussion or how would that affect China-Canada relationship?
Ambassador Lu: I always have concerns that Canada may make the same decision as the U.S., Australia and New Zealand did. And I believe such decisions are not fair because their accusations are groundless. I have been following reports about it for a long time. The Five Eyes alliance countries have accused Huawei of national security threat, but they have never shown any evidence. Last month in an interview the Huawei rotating CEO complained about being treated unjustly, and he said the U.S. has not even used Huawei’s equipment, how do they know that it poses a threat to American’s national security? He also said that if the U.S. has any evidence, they can show the evidence to other countries and telecommunication companies, even if they will not show the evidence to Huawei. The culture of western countries’ legal system puts a lot of emphasis on evidence, why don’t you put emphasis on evidence in this case? That is why I suspect the relevant accusations have ulterior motives. Actually some countries propose the idea of banning Huawei equipment not out of concerns for national security, but rather out of other motives. The accusation simply based on surmises can not be sustained. We hope that the Canadian government and the relevant authorities could make wise decision on this issue. As for the consequences of banning Huawei from 5G network, I am not sure yet what kind of consequences will be, but I surely believe there will be consequences.
People’s Daily: As you mentioned earlier, the bilateral trade volume of 2018 exceeded 100 billion Canadian dollars, will the current China-Canada tensions have impact on the cooperation in trade and other fields, if the tensions will last?
Ambassador Lu: Yes, indeed, the current China-Canada relations have significantly impacted the cooperation and exchanges between the two countries. This is not something we want to see, but the responsibilities is not on the Chines side.
The Chinese government is willing to work together with the Canadian government to seek ways to resolve the issues that we currently face. But in order to resolve the problems, the parties involved need show sincerity, all the ins and outs, and the rights and wrongs must be made clear. We need to strike at the roots of the problems, and figure out the responsibilities of each party. The one who bears the responsibilities should solve their problems first, instead of writing them off and asking the other side to take care of their concerns. We hope these issues can be settled through bilateral channels in a calm manner, instead of resorting to “microphone diplomacy”, hyping up the issue is not conducive to its settlement. We hope these problems can soon be solved jointly by both sides meeting each other half way, so as to bring bilateral relations back to the right track.
Xinhua News Agency: Mr. Ambassador, I have noticed the report, yesterday the Canadian Foreign Minister said in an interview with the Canadian media that the detention of two Canadians is not against Canada, but against the entire international community. And she’s going to bring this issue up at Davos Economic Forum when she participates in the event. What is your response on this?
Ambassador Lu: Yesterday, the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry has already answered this question. Facts show that it is obviously not true to say that China is a threat to the rest of the world. As I said earlier, the two sides should sit down and talk calmly through bilateral channels, instead of resorting to the media for “microphone diplomacy”. Likewise, bringing in some countries for echoing will not be conducive to its settlement. Expression of support from some countries will not change the nature of the issue. An open war of words may aggravate tensions and not help resolve the issue. Davos is a place for economy discussions, and we do not expect topics irrelevant. If the Canadian side has the sincerity to solve the problem, it should not do so. We hope the Canadian side will think twice before acting.
Sept Days: What is the reason that 2018 China-Canada Year of Tourism was not as hot as anticipated? In the context of the recent situation, what are your comments on the future China-Canada tourism and the people to people exchanges of the two countries?
Ambassador Lu: Yes indeed, I also feel that the China-Canada Year of Tourism did not witness the boom of tourists from both sides, but the data showed some increase. In my impression, the number of tourists from both sides increased by 5%-6% last year. Among the origin countries of foreign tourists to Canada, China is the fastest growing one, which is one of the merits of the China-Canada Year of Tourism. In addition, at least the launching of the China-Canada Year of Tourism has expanded understanding of each other among peoples of the two countries. Perhaps the two sides are not very content with the outcomes of the tourism year, so the tourism year has not ended yet, and the closing ceremony has not been held. I hope the tourism year may continue in this year, of course in a favorite political atmosphere. Will the mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples in turn have a positive influence on the politicians of the two countries? I hope so.
China News Service: Thank you, Ambassador. I have noticed that there are voices in the Canadian media who claim that on the case of Meng Wanzhou, China still lacks understanding of Canada’s judicial system and national conditions. There are also beliefs that, from the perspective of history and reality, Canada is the friendliest country among western countries to China, and China should not “overreact” to the Huawei case. What do you think about that?
Ambassador Lu: The so called China’s lack of knowledge about the judicial system of Canada in the case of Ms. Meng carries the undertone that China should accept Canada’s handling of the case. As far as I know, there are other voices in the Canadian media that the Canadian side should not have handled Ms. Meng’s case in this way. Many well-known scholars and commentators in Canada and the U.S. pointed out that it would be naive to take Meng’s case simply as a judicial one. China’s characterization of the case was correct from the very beginning that it is a political issue. From the very beginning, the Chinese government has been criticizing the Canadian government’s way of handling the case, and it is not because of China’s lack of knowledge of Canada’s judicial system, but rather, because we know it very well.
Canada does enjoy highly favorable image in the eyes of Chinese people. It is fair to say that Chinese people regard Canada as their best friend. For example, Dr. Norman Bethune is a symbol of China-Canada friendship. Just because the Chinese people regard Canada as our best friend among the western countries, the Chinese people feel very much hurt emotionally by Ms. Meng’s case. There is a saying in China which goes “A good friend would shield the knife attacks for you”, but regarding this case, now many Chinese feel like being “backstabbed by their friends”. This is not a good situation. As I have stressed repeatedly, we hope there can be a swift and proper resolution of this case so as to mend our relationship and restore the friendship between our two peoples.
CBC radio:We have seen Prime Minister Trudeau made some calls to other leaders regarding China and regarding the rule of law, what do you think about those calls? Do you think that could isolate China?
Ambassador Lu: China will not be isolated in the international community, and we will not waive in our position simply just because of the objection of some countries in the world. The international community is not only composed of a few western countries. China has a lot of friends around the world across Asia, Africa an Latin America. I think rallying support from other countries around the world is not helpful in resolving the current issues that we face. As I said earlier, these efforts will only serve to escalate tensions. A better way is for both parties to sit down at the table and to have candid and sincere conversations.
CBC: Ambassador, you said both parties should show sincerity and all facts should be known to both sides. Can you tell us since we notified the allegations against Ms. Meng, what are the specific charges against the two Canadians? Secondly, you talked about goodwill, if Ms. Meng is released, would China show goodwill and release the two Canadians ?
Ambassador Lu: First of all, there is no accusation against Ms. Meng as she did not violate any Canadian Law. From the very beginning, China has made it very clear that these two Canadian nationals were on suspicion of engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security. As the investigation deepens and advances, the allegation against these two Canadians will become more clear and specific. China will handle the cases of these two Canadians in strict accordance to its own laws and regulations and legal procedures. As for your second question about if China will show goodwill and release the two detained Canadians, I have already made it very clear from the very beginning that the two cases are not connected. But we need to resolve these issues and resolve our common concerns, so the best way for us is to sit down at the table and engage in discussions.
Reuters: In your article in the Hill Times, your refer to “self defence”, can you elaborate on that?
Ambassador Lu: When I said “self defence”, I meant that these two Canadians were on suspicion of endangering China’s national security, so China took compulsory measures and this is “self defence”.
Ottawazine: Since the groundless detention of Ms Meng, it seems that Chinese people now have a different impression of Canada, and some of them are very concerned about their safety in Canada. What would you like to say to the Chinese entrepreneurs, businessmen and students in Canada or people that plan to travel to Canada?
Ambassador Lu: The groundless detention of a senior executive of a multinational company who did not violate Canada’s laws and regulations is unprecedented. It does shock a lot of Chinese people particularly entrepreneurs and businessmen who conduct business or thinking of conducting business in Canada, and it is understandable that they have such concerns for their own safety. As with the recently released travel advisory by the Chinese government with regard to travelling to Canada, Chinese citizens should pay more attention to their safety. We also noticed that Canada also issued a similar travel advisory for China, but here I want to reiterate that China is one of the safest countries in the world, and China is a country based on the rule of law. We welcome businessmen and students and people from around the world to come to China, to visit China or study in China, and as long as they abide by Chinese laws and regulations, their safety can be guaranteed.
Ottawa Life Magazine: Can you give us an update as of today at what level is our government talking with Chinese government? Is our Prime Minister talking with you? Is our Minister of Foreign Affairs talking with you? Could you give us a status of exactly what that discussion is that today? The second question I have is with regard to Mr. Schellbenberg who was convicted in China for serious drug charge. On the appeal, he was given death sentence. Our Prime minster and Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed deep concern about that and asked for clemency in that case. Is he in any imminent danger of that sentence being carried out? Is that something Chinese government considering on the clemency request from the Canadian side in this case?
Ambassador Lu: China and Canada maintain open and close communication on such issues. For example, personally I have exchanged phone conversations with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. Maybe due to schedules or other reasons, we can see that Canadian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have not been exchanging with their Chinese counterparts directly on these issues, and we haven’t seen any media reports either. I think based on the contacts and exchanges between us so far, both sides are very clear about each others’ position and main arguments. I hope that contacts of the two countries and two sides should not simply be about expressing each side’s position, but should also be about showing resolve and sincerity to address these issues. As for Schellbenberg’s case, as we are all aware that drug related crimes are felony around the world, and Chinese court issued the death penalty for Schellbenberg according to Chinese law and relevant juridical procedures. There are a lot of different voices in Canadian media and some people say this was a rather hasty decision. But if you read carefully the relevant court documents, you will see that all the rules and regulations and standards according to China’s Criminal Procedure Law were observed strictly. Whether the ruling is in accordance with the law or not is not based on how fast the decision is made. I certainly hope that Canadian side could understand and respect it. Mr. Schellbenberg still has the right to appeal, and actually it was his appeal previously that prompted the retrial. As for how the case will evolve in the future, it depends on whether he would appeal or not, and if he does, how the court will rule this case in the future.
Bloomberg: I was wondering in the Meng wanzhou’s case, that could be months or perhaps for years because it is a complicated international decision. Can China wait that long not escalating situation further? Prime Minister Trudeau said Mr. Kovrig has some forms of diplomatic immunity. Why does China not view him having any diplomatic immunity?
Ambassador Lu: With regard to Ms. Meng’s case, from the very beginning, China has always believed that this case is not justifiable. From the perspective of Canada, Ms. Meng did not violate any Canadian law. From the perspective of the U.S., the allegation is that Ms. Meng violated its sanction against Iran. But this is U.S.’s domestic law, so this can be called as a long arm jurisdiction in which the U.S. put its domestic law above international law. If all countries act like the U.S. and apply long arm jurisdiction for their own purposes and objectives, then the world would be a mess. I believe that Canada does not want to see a Canadian national being arrested in a third country by China for charges for example drug trafficking. So we believe that Ms. Meng’s case should not be last very long. It should be resolved very soon. The result would be her release. With regard to your second question about diplomatic immunity for Michael Kovrig, there are lots of international law experts in China who have studied the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Chinese side believes that Michael Kovrig entered China with a regular passport and business visa, and he does not enjoy diplomatic immunity. While some people in Canada say that his work and duties as a former diplomat enjoys residual immunity, however, based on the relevant clauses in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, if these activities were performed not in his role as a diplomat, then he does not enjoy diplomatic immunity. According to the Convention, activities that endanger national security are not activities or duties carried out by a diplomat. There are similar cases and rulings in the U.S., Canada and western countries that activities carried out that endanger country’s national security are not considered as activities in his capacity being a diplomat.