OTTAWA - China's ambassador to Canada on Friday called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to "correct its mistake" of detaining Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou last year on a US extradition warrant.
Ambassador Cong Peiwu issued the statement after visiting Meng at her mansion in Vancouver, where she is under house arrest pending an extradition trial scheduled to start in January.
Cong said that he stressed to Meng that Beijing is "determined to protect the just and legitimate rights and interests of its citizens and enterprises, and will continue to urge the Canadian side to correct its mistake and take measures to solve the issue as soon as possible."
"We expect (Meng) to go back to China safe and sound at an early date," he said.
Meng's arrest last December during a layover at Vancouver's international airport triggered an escalating diplomatic row between Canada and China.
Within days, China detained two Canadians -- former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor -- in apparent retaliation, and subsequently blocked billions of dollars worth of Canadian canola and meat shipments, before restoring imports of the country's beef and pork earlier this month.
Canada, meanwhile, enlisted the support of allies such as Britain, France, Germany, the United States and NATO to press for the release of its two citizens.
When he met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a G20 meeting in Japan last weekend, Canada's new foreign minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, called their release an "absolute priority."
But Cong, who was posted to Ottawa in September, told Canadian media that Meng's release was a "precondition" for improved relations.
Canada has previously declared the arrests of Spavor and Kovrig "arbitrary." Others have gone further, tarring it as "hostage diplomacy."
The pair, held in isolation until June when they were formally charged with allegedly stealing Chinese state secrets and moved to a detention center, have been permitted only one 30-minute consular visit per-month.
Describing their harsh detention conditions, The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing unnamed sources, reported that Kovrig's jailers at one point seized his reading glasses.
Since being granted bail soon after her arrest, Meng has been required to wear an electronic monitoring anklet and abide by a curfew, but she is free to roam within Vancouver city limits under the gaze of a security escort.
Her father, Huawei founder Ren Zengfei, told CNN that she's "like a small ant caught between the collision of two giant powers."
He described her spending time in Vancouver enjoying painting and studying, adding that her mother and husband routinely travel to Canada to care for her.