OTTAWA—Chinese Premier Li Keqiang landed in Ottawa late Wednesday to meet with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau and press for an extradition treaty.
But even before the Chinese leader’s plane rolled up to the terminal, Trudeau faced political heat from opposition parties for even considering sending Chinese expatriates back.
Canadian opposition parties fear they could be subjected to human rights abuses and the death penalty in China.
The meeting comes barely one month after the two leaders held talks in Beijing.
Trudeau last week tasked his national security adviser with mapping out an agenda for possible cooperation on security and related matters.
Canada and China have begun discussions on an extradition treaty, Trudeau told parliament.
“We have created a dialogue,” he said. “The benefit to Canada is having a high-level security dialogue where we can talk about issues that are important to us and issues that are important to the Chinese government.”
Tory opposition leader Rona Ambrose linked the issue of extradition to concerns about Chinese hacking and a recent revelation that Chinese agents are active in Canada.
Trudeau shot back, saying the previous Conservative government for a decade had been “hot and cold with the world’s second-largest economy.”
“The fact is, Canada has extraordinarily high standards for extradition treaties, and those will always be upheld with anyone around the world,” he said.
The Canadian leader ruled out any extraditions to countries where those convicted would face the death penalty.
Seeking to reassure Canadians, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said these would be “discussions, not negotiations.”
Canadian diplomacy has been very active since Trudeau’s Liberals swept to power last year, contesting a rotating seat on the Security Council, pledging peacekeeping troops for UN missions and hosting thousands of Syrian refugees.
With China, Trudeau wants closer ties.
“We needed to renew and deepen the relationship between the people of Canada and people of China for the long term and I think it’s safe to say we have accomplished just that,” he said at the end of his trip to Beijing.
China is Canada’s second largest trading partner after the United States, with trade exceeding Can$85 billion ($64.5 billion USD) last year.
Last month, Canada said it would apply to join the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which has been criticized by its neighbor and closest ally, the United States.
Beijing, meanwhile, just prior to Li’s visit released a Canadian national held since 2014 on espionage charges.
After landing in Ottawa, the Chinese premier was to have a private dinner with Trudeau.
An official welcome was scheduled for Thursday morning, followed by a bilateral leaders’ meeting.
A state dinner is to be held Thursday evening at Ottawa’s Museum of History.
Li will conclude his visit Friday in Montreal, where he will participate in a trade and economic cooperation forum.