BEIJING — Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday he raised a full range of concerns with the Chinese in his meetings with the country’s leadership over the past few days.
“You can rest assured that every single item that is important in the area of consular issues, human rights, governance, the rights of minorities _ I have raised every single one of those,” he told the media shortly after meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping.
“Those are things on which we will continue to follow up and having ongoing dialogue.”
Harper and Xi met Sunday at the majestic Great Hall of the People, located alongside Tiananmen Square, best known as the site of violent pro-democracy protests in 1989.
The prime minister acknowledged the Canada-China relationship has been tense at times. In 2006, Harper vowed not to sell out to what he called the “almighty dollar” in China.
“You may remember there was some controversy in the early days of this government, when we said that when we conducted relationships with China or any other country there were really three elements to that,” he said.
“There were not just economic interests, there were also fundamental human values, Canadian values and also our security interests …. We insist that all of those things be on the table in this and any other relationship.”
A more recent irritant involves the case of a Canadian couple accused of espionage by the Chinese, one that almost put the brakes entirely on Harper’s visit.
Kevin and Julia Garratt, who have lived in China for 30 years, have been held without charges since August. Their detainment came just days after Canada accused the Chinese of spying on federal government agencies.
Their son, Simeon, said Sunday that he had feared the Canadian government wasn’t putting enough pressure on the Chinese to release his parents. But later in the day, Simeon Garratt said those concerns had been assuaged after hearing from embassy officials.
“I am really glad with … the leadership role that Harper and I think the rest of the government has taken on my parents’ case,” he said in Beijing, where he travelled last week, timing his visit to Harper’s.
“I know they are doing the best to get my parents released and get this resolved.”
Harper’s third visit to China has been heavy on trade and economics.
The two countries signed a flurry of trade and currency deals on Saturday worth as much as $2.5 billion.
A hotly anticipated reciprocal currency deal between Canada and China was also inked. The agreement will foster far easier trade between the Canadian dollar and the Chinese currency, and makes Canada the first country in the Americas to have a deal to trade in the yuan, also known as the renminbi.