Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is refusing to release Chinese high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou in exchange for two high-profile Canadians under arrest in Beijing.
Meng is the chief financial officer of Huawei and is wanted by the United States accused of fraud.
Nineteen former Canadian politicians and diplomats, including ex-foreign affairs ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Lawrence Cannon, sent a letter to Trudeau appealing to him to free Meng.
They wrote that it would give Canada the opportunity to "redefine its strategic approach to China."
"There is no question that the U.S. extradition request has put Canada in a difficult position. As prime minister, you face a difficult decision. Complying with the U.S. request has greatly antagonized China," the letter says, according to the CBC.
But Trudeau said that “randomly arresting Canadians doesn’t give you leverage over the government of Canada. … We cannot allow political pressures or random arrests of Canadian citizens to influence the functioning of our justice system. So I respect these individuals, but they’re wrong.”
Canadian authorities arrested Meng in Vancouver in 2018 on a U.S. warrant. She is out on bail.
Shortly after her arrest, Chinese authorities detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, charging them with spying.
Their arrests infuriated Canada. Both are in a Beijing jail and have not had access to Canadian diplomats since January.
Canada has also placed trade sanctions on a number of Chinese exports.
The Trump administration wants to extradite Meng from Canada for trial. As chief financial officer of Huawei — one of the world's largest manufacturers of smartphones — Meng is accused of lying to U.S. officials about Huawei’s business in Iran, which is under U.S. sanctions.
The U.S. has also warned other countries against using Huawei-built products, suspecting the Chinese government of installing them with spyware.
Both Meng and Huawei deny all the U.S. allegations.