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China’s Xi confronts Canada’s Trudeau at G20 over media leaks

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in person over alleged leaks of their closed-door meeting at the Group of 20 (G20) summit, a rare public display of annoyance by the Chinese leader.

In video footage published by Canadian broadcasters, Mr. Xi and Mr. Trudeau can be seen standing close to each other and conversing via a translator at the summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.

“That is not appropriate, and we didn’t do it that way,” Mr. Xi said in Mandarin, smiling. “If there is sincerity, we can communicate well with mutual respect, otherwise the outcome will not be easy to tell”.

His displeasure was likely a reference to media reports that Mr. Trudeau brought up “serious concerns” about alleged espionage and Chinese “interference” in Canadian elections when meeting with Mr. Xi on Tuesday, his first talks with the Chinese leader in more than three years.

A translator for Mr. Xi can be heard in the video telling Mr. Trudeau that “everything we discussed was leaked to the paper(s), that’s not appropriate.”

The video captured a rare candid moment for Mr. Xi, whose image is carefully curated by Chinese state media.

Mr. Trudeau responds to Mr. Xi’s initial criticism 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.”

Before he finished speaking, however, Mr. Xi, looking slightly exasperated, cuts him off and says, “create the conditions, create the conditions, OK?” before smiling, shaking Mr. Trudeau’s hand and walking off.

Neither the Chinese foreign ministry nor state media have published anything on talks between Mr. Xi and Mr. Trudeau. The two held a 10-minute informal meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit on Tuesday, according to a government source. Mr. Xi has held nine formal bilateral meetings with other heads of state while at the summit, according to the Chinese foreign ministry website.

Canada never released an official readout from the meeting, but Mr. Trudeau did confirm the conversation and the points that he made to Mr. Xi at a news conference at the end of the G20.

“Canada trusts its citizens with information about the conversations that we have in their name as a government,” Mr. Trudeau said according to a transcript of the news conference.

Mr. Trudeau added not all conversations with leaders were going to be easy, but pointed out that “systems” in the two countries are different and in China “there is not always the same openness that a democratic leader can and must have with his citizens.”

The short but revealing Xi-Trudeau exchange highlighted tensions between China and Canada, running high since the detention of China’s Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 and Beijing’s subsequent arrest of two Canadians on spying charges. All three were later released.

Despite the release, tensions have recently resurged.

An employee at Canada’s largest electricity producer Hydro-Quebec who was involved in researching battery materials has been charged with espionage for allegedly trying to steal trade secrets to benefit China, Canadian police said on Monday.

News of the arrest came as Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Xi were attending the G20 summit.

This month, Canada ordered three Chinese companies to divest their investments in Canadian critical minerals, citing national security. — Reuters

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