BEIJING: A tense exchange between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at this week’s G20 summit was triggered by the leaking of details of a conversation between the two, China’s foreign ministry said on Friday.
A video published by Canadian broadcasters on Wednesday showed Xi telling Trudeau, via a translator, that “everything we discussed was leaked to the paper(s), that’s not appropriate.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning, in response to a question on Friday, said that Trudeau went up to Xi during the G20 welcoming ceremony on Tuesday and the two had a brief conversation.
“Soon after, Reuters, citing a person in the Canadian government, said that Trudeau raised serious concerns about so-called actions of Chinese interference,” Mao told a regular media briefing, referring to a report that day about the conversation between the two.
“The Chinese side has already lodged a stern protest with the Canadian side over this, stressing that arbitrarily leaking conversations between leaders to the outside world was not aligned with the common sense of high-level exchanges,” Mao added.
The video captured a rare candid moment for Xi, whose image is carefully curated by Chinese state media.
Trudeau responded to Xi’s criticism of the leak at the time by saying: “In Canada we believe in free and open and frank dialogue and that is what we will continue to have, we will continue to look to work constructively together but there will be things we disagree on.”
While the incident was widely covered by foreign media, there has been no coverage of it in China and the foreign ministry did not include references to it in its published transcript of a briefing on Thursday, where four questions related to the incident were asked.
The exchange between the leaders highlighted bilateral tension that has been running high since the detention of a senior executive of China’s Huawei Technologies tech giant, Meng Wanzhou, in 2018 and Beijing’s subsequent arrest of two Canadians on spying charges.
All three were later released.
Relations have grown tense again this month after Trudeau accused the Chinese government of “aggressively” interference in Canadian elections.
Spokesperson Mao described that allegation as “complete nonsense” on Friday.