(Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed on the phone the issue of two Canadian citizens detained in China since late 2018 and to whom China granted rare consular access on Friday and Saturday, the Canadian government said.
Dominic Barton, Canada’s Ambassador to China, was granted virtual consular access to Michael Spavor, a businessman, on Friday and to Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, on Saturday, the Canadian government said.
“The Canadian government remains deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of these two Canadians since December 2018 and continues to call for their immediate release,” Global Affairs Canada, which manages the government’s diplomatic and consular relations, said.
Trudeau thanked Trump in a phone call on Saturday for the United States’ support in “seeking the immediate release of the two Canadian citizens arbitrarily detained by China,” the prime minister’s office said in a readout statement of the call.
The statements did not give more information. The White House had no immediate comment on further details about the call.
China arrested Canadian citizens Kovrig and Spavor in late 2018 and later charged them with espionage. Their arrests had come soon after Canada had arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, on a U.S. warrant.
The relations between Canada and China have since been tense.
The United States’ own tensions with China have also increased recently over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the ongoing trade war between the two countries, China’s imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong and the subsequent end to Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law by Trump.
The Trump administration has restricted technology exports to Chinese companies, notably Huawei, citing national security risks. The company has denied such charges.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Chris Reese)