Hong Kong (CNN)The decision by China to charge two Canadians with espionage was clearly political, the country's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, said Tuesday, after a top Chinese diplomat warned him to "stop making irresponsible remarks" about the case.
Trudeau attacks China's 'political' detention of two Canadians, as prison letters sent from Beijing are published
Trudeau was speaking days after Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were officially charged with spying and handling state secrets. The two men were first detained in late 2018 in the weeks following the arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese technology company Huawei, on charges filed in the United States.
"It has been obvious from the beginning that this was a political decision made by the Chinese government and we deplore it," Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa, adding that "we're not considering" any trade of the two men with detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
"Anyone who is considering weakening our values or weakening the independence of our justice system doesn't understand the importance of our values," he added.
His remarks come after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian criticized both Canada and the US for their comments on the case. In a regular press conference this week, Zhao said that "the Chinese judicial organs handle cases independently and guarantee the lawful rights of those Canadian nationals according to law."
"We urge the Canadian leader to respect rule of law and China's judicial sovereignty, and stop making irresponsible remarks," he added.
Chinese officials have not disclosed any evidence against the two men or information detailing their alleged crimes, but have said, "the facts are clear and evidence is solid."