Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne (The Canadian Press)

Minister say empty planes left China, pushes for virtual access to ‘Michaels’

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have spent 500 days in Chinese captivity

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne challenged Beijing Thursday over two Canadian planes that left China empty of medical supplies, and pushed for virtual diplomatic access to two Canadians who marked 500 days in Chinese captivity.

“We will continue to defend our interest and principles at every step of the way. With respect to the situation we had with the two planes, it’s a matter of fact. The prime minister spoke about it,” the minister told The Canadian Press.

Champagne was commenting on the remarks a day earlier by the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, who said it was “inaccurate” for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to say earlier this week that two Canadian planes left China without the medical supplies that they had been sent to pick up because of congestion at the airport and strict limits on time crews spend on the ground.

Champagne said Canada understands the Shanghai airport is a busy place these days, but he is working with his Chinese counterpart to ensure there are no future empty cargo flights.

At the same time, Canadian authorities have found a million protective facemasks imported from China inadequate for health-care workers. The Public Health Agency of Canada said Thursday that tests found the masks didn’t meet its standards and they won’t be distributed to provinces as planned.

The intense demand for masks means “countries are engaging with a diverse number of new suppliers and manufacturers,” Eric Morrissette wrote in an email.

These masks were billed as meeting “KN95” standard, the Chinese equivalent of the American N95 standard. A PHAC spokesman said the federal government is determining whether they can be put to use outside health settings.

Champagne said he never misses an opportunity in his conversations with Chinese counterparts to advocate for two arbitrarily detained Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who are marked their 500th day in Chinese custody Thursday. The two men were arrested in December 2018, nine days after Canada arrested Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant.

ALSO READ: Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Canada is trying to overcome China’s restrictions on access to prisons during the COVID-19 crisis that have prevented regular consular visits since earlier in the year. China allowed Kovrig to call his ill father last month.

“When I spoke to my Chinese counterpart, I mentioned the concept of virtual consular access and that’s something we’re going to be pursuing, and my understanding is that’s something they are considering,” said Champagne.

“What we’re saying is that in spite of COVID, in spite of conditions that are imposed by local authorities to avoid the spread of the virus in China, that there are means — that there must be technological means today to allow Canada to have consular access for detainees in China, including Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.”

Champagne said China is obligated under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to allow Canada to check on the well-being of the two men.

“Five hundred days is too much. These Canadians have to be released,” the minister said.

The acting U.S. ambassador to Canada threw the heft of his government behind that demand on Thursday.

“We are aware that today is the 500th day of the captivity for the two Michaels in China. And I just want to reiterate that their return out of this arbitrary detention by the Chinese government remains a priority and a focus for this mission and for the U.S. government and we continue to press the Chinese to prove that they can be responsible members of the international community and take the right steps regarding the two Michaels,” Richard Mills said in Ottawa.

“They are in our thoughts today, particularly.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

China

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Beefs & Bouquets, May 27

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

100-pound gargoyle stolen from backyard in Nanaimo’s south end

RCMP asking for any information about the statue’s whereabouts

Helicopter company helps Nanaimo couple get married, socially distanced on a mountaintop

West Coast Helicopters lifts wedding onto Mount Cokely after COVID-19 cancelled previous plans

Nanaimo senior who was excessively speeding says her vehicle shouldn’t have been impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

OPINION: Another world is possible as we emerge from pandemic

Nanaimo city councillor Tyler Brown says resiliency starts at the community level

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

West Coast Trail to remain closed for now

Federal government won’t open world-famous trek until its First Nations are ready for visitors

Nanaimo man scores viral hit with stop-motion tribute to ‘Schitt’s Creek’

Todd Cameron used vintage Fisher Price toys to create one-minute music video

Most Read