Chinese President Xi Jinping confronted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, accusing him of harming diplomatic ties by sharing details of their meeting with the media, before warning him in untranslated remarks that there could be consequences if he is not respected.
“Everything we discussed was leaked to the newspapers; it’s not appropriate,” Xi told Trudeau through a translator who was with Xi when the two met at an event during the G20 summit.
The media was able to record the brief conversation after a reporter spotted the two leaders speaking together across the room and approached to capture the meeting on camera.
“That’s not the way the conversation is going. If you have sincerity—” Xi continued, translated by a translator, when Trudeau cut him off.
However, before the interpreter began sharing that portion of the speech, Xi continued to say something in Mandarin that was not translated into English for Trudeau to hear.
“We should have a dialogue in a respectful manner,” Mr. Xi said in Mandarin.
“Otherwise, the outcome is unpredictable.”
When Trudeau interjected before that part of Xi’s message was translated, he said: “We believe in free, open and frank dialogue, and that is what we will continue to have. We will continue to seek constructive cooperation, but at some point We disagree on some things.”
“Let’s create the conditions first,” Xi replied through a translator.
The two shook hands after the exchange and Trudeau walked towards the exit.
Trudeau spoke with Xi on Tuesday, and the prime minister’s office later said he was concerned about China’s “interference” in Canada.
In the crowded room at the summit, the two also discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea and climate change, his office added. It regularly shares details of Trudeau’s conversations with other world leaders, either through official readings posted online or briefings to the media.
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa declined to comment on Wednesday, saying “we have nothing to share at this time.”
Trudeau did not specify what type of interference his office meant, but the comments came in the wake of Beijing’s claim to have a de facto police force in Canada and reported Chinese interference in the 2019 election.
In early November, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed that it was investigating reports of criminal activity linked to so-called “police” stations that a human rights group said were carried out by China on Canadian soil.
In a separate case, a former Hydro-Québec employee became the first person in Canada to be charged with economic espionage this week after he was arrested by police on suspicion of obtaining trade secrets for the Chinese government.
A House of Commons committee this week opened an inquiry into possible election meddling after a Global News report earlier this month cited unnamed sources as saying China was behind foreign interference and had funded a campaign involving at least 11 candidates. Secret network of people in the 2019 federal election.
Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said on the sidelines of Wednesday’s caucus meeting that he didn’t think Trudeau was “ready” to represent Canada’s interests and values at the summit.
“Instead of talking privately with President Xi whose government is interfering in our democracy, the Prime Minister needs to be accountable to the House of Representatives and publicly tell Canadians who these 11 candidates are so we can take action to make sure it doesn’t happen again” . “
Trudeau did not elaborate on the comment on Wednesday or whether he agreed to keep conversations between him and Xi private, an incident he attributed to differing expectations for transparency.
“Canada trusts its citizens to have access to information about the conversations we have on their behalf as a government,” he told reporters in English.
“In fact, our system is very different,” he added in French.
Trudeau reiterated his government’s view that Canada can cooperate with China on issues such as biodiversity, but the country’s violation of global norms covering trade and human rights poses a threat to global stability.
“I will not shy away from opening up to Canadians, even when we discuss important and sometimes delicate topics,” Trudeau said in English.
He added that it was a matter of “strike a balance between being open to the differences and issues we raise and being able to work constructively”.
In Ottawa, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said he was “glad” that Trudeau was “standing up for Canada, as always,” adding that “we will not tolerate acts of interference like this.”
Chong said it shows that the Canadian government is “slowly waking up to the threat that we’ve been calling for them to act on for years.”
He said it was long overdue for the Trudeau government to come up with clear policy in the region. Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly is expected to unveil an Indo-Pacific strategy soon.
The party’s deputy whip, Conservative MP Chris Warkentin, said only: “It’s important, isn’t it.”
—Dylan Robertson, Canadian Press
China G20 Justin Trudeau