TRENTON, Canada 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected calls Thursday to swap Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou for two Canadians languishing in Chinese jails. 

The reason, he said, is that such a trade would endanger Canadians abroad.

“It is obvious that the first priority of any government is to protect its citizens,” Trudeau said. “If countries around the world, including China, realize that by arbitrarily arresting random Canadians they can get what they want out of Canada politically – well, that makes an awful lot of Canadians who travel around the world vulnerable to that kind of pressure.”

His assertion comes one day after the Chinese foreign ministry said if an extradition hearing on Meng was canceled and she is set free, it could affect coming trials for Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the so-called two Michaels.

They have been held since December 2018 in a move widely seen as retribution for Meng’s arrest at the behest of the US. Beijing formally charged the pair with spying last week, paving the way for a trial.

Meng remains under house arrest in Vancouver as her extradition hearing continues. She is wanted by the US for allegedly circumventing American sanctions on Iran.

Trudeau said the arrests of the Canadians shows the Chinese justice system takes its orders from the communist regime, whereas Canada is governed by a rule of law with courts independent of political meddling.

But Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian noted Canadian law permits the rejection of the extradition process.

“Such options are within the rule of law and could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians,” he said, according to a transcript provided by the ministry.

“Once again, we urge the Canadian side to earnestly respect the spirit of the rule of law, treat China’s solemn position and concerns seriously, stop political manipulation, immediately release Ms. Meng and ensure her safe return to China,” he said.

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