China pushed back Wednesday against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's remarks that it engages in "coercive diplomacy" and called the Canadian government hypocritical.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called Canada's holding of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co., an "arbitrary detention" and a more typical case of coercive diplomacy.
"We have lodged a formal protest against Canada's deliberate distortion of facts and for releasing a false statement," Zhao said in a regular news briefing in Beijing.
"The Canadian government has, until now, dared not to face the facts and reveal the truth to the public. This is a sign of hypocrisy and weakness."
He added that China "again strongly urges Canada to correct its mistake, immediately release Meng Wanzhou and let her return to China, to remove any stumbling blocks to the development of China-Canada relations."
Trudeau, addressing the press on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with China on Tuesday, said Canada will keep pressing the issue of the detained Canadians, as well as human rights in Hong Kong and the plight facing Uyghurs in China's Xinjiang region.
"We will remain absolutely committed to working with our allies, to ensure that China's approach of coercive diplomacy, its arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens alongside other citizens of other countries around the world, is not viewed as a successful tactic by them."
Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were detained in China shortly after Canada, at the request of the United States, detained Meng in Vancouver in December 2018.
"We will continue to highlight our concern for the Canadians detained, our concern for the protection of human rights in places like Hong Kong and Xinjiang...with the Uyghurs," Trudeau said.
He added that China's approach to its internal and global affairs is "not on a particularly productive path for itself" or other countries.
Canada's Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in a separate statement that it is unacceptable that the two Canadians were arbitrarily detained.
"Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor must be brought home. This is something for which all Canadians stand united. The use of coercive diplomacy causes Canada to re-examine its approach, with a focus on multilateral cooperation," he said.
Canada's ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, was granted "virtual consular access" to Spavor and Kovrig last week, the first diplomatic contact since January, according to Global Affairs Canada.