Germany expressed serious concern Sunday about the detention of Canadian nationals in China, a day after Ottawa called on allies for support in securing their release.
The German foreign ministry said it was closely following the cases of former diplomat Michael Kovrig and consultant Michael Spavor.
“We are deeply concerned that political motives could have played a role in the detentions of the two Canadian citizens in China,” a ministry spokesman said in a statement.
“We call for the cases to be handled based on fair standards and the rule of law.”
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland had said Saturday that detentions were “not only a Canadian issue” and repeated a call for the “immediate” release of the two men who had been “detained arbitrarily”.
“It is an issue which concerns our allies and we’ve been discussing it very actively with our allies and partners around the world,” she said.
Kovrig and Spavor were detained on December 10 and accused of engaging in activities that “endanger China’s national security.”
Though no link has officially been made, the arrests seem to be in retaliation of Canada’s December 10 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
Ottawa has repeatedly said Meng’s arrest was not political, but rather part of a judicial process in keeping with an extradition treaty with Washington.
Meng was released on bail in Vancouver pending her US extradition hearing on fraud charges related to sanctions-breaking business dealings with Iran.
Germany’s foreign ministry said it was “convinced” that Canada was giving Meng’s case a “fair, unbiased and transparent handling”.
“The questioning and subsequent release on bail are part of a normal process under the rule of law,” it said.
“Canada is respecting its international obligations by following the terms of the extradition treaty with the US. We share with Canada the deeply held conviction that the rule of law is the basis of all free societies.”
Six influential Berlin-based think tanks issued a joint statement last week calling for the allegations against the detained Canadian citizens “to be clarified by the relevant Chinese authorities” and urging “objective and fair treatment in line with international standards”.