China FM berates Canadian journalist

OTTAWA—China’s foreign minister berated a Canadian journalist on Wednesday for questioning Beijing’s human rights record, saying she had “no right to speak” about the issue.

The remarks by Wang Yi came after the reporter asked Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion about what was being done to push China on human rights and its holding of a Canadian man on espionage charges.

“Your question is full of prejudice and arrogance,” Wang told a press briefing in Ottawa where he stood beside Dion. “This is totally unacceptable.”

“The people that know the most about human rights in China is not you, it’s only the Chinese people. You don’t have the right to speak,” he added according to a video posted online by Canadian broadcaster CBC.

“Don’t ask these kinds of irresponsible questions again,” he said.

China often condemns other countries for criticizing its record on human rights, but usually refrains from doing so in such direct terms at press conferences overseas.

In contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping last year admitted the country had “room for improvement” on human rights after being asked a similar question by a British journalist while on a visit to London.

Wang’s Canadian visit—where he also met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—was portrayed in local media as an attempt to improve relations as Ottawa presses for a free-trade deal with the world’s second-largest economy.

Ties have been strained by the detention of Canadian citizen Kevin Garratt in 2014 on espionage charges. He previously ran a Christian-themed coffee shop near the North Korean border.

Beijing announced in January he had been formally charged, after his wife who was also detained was released on bail.

Aside from the outburst, Wang reiterated China’s standard line on the South China Sea, where it has overlapping claims with several Southeast Asian neighbors.

Speaking after incoming Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte recently heaped praise on Xi, Wang said that “the door of dialogue between China and the Philippines is always open.”

Ties soured under outgoing President Aquino, whose government sued Beijing before a UN-backed tribunal over its claims in the South China Sea.

With a ruling expected in the coming weeks, the Philippines’ response will probably be left to Duterte, who takes office on June 30.

Duterte has said he is willing to engage China in bilateral talks on the issue.

However, he has also played to nationalist sentiments by saying he would ride a Jet Ski to plant a Philippine flag on disputed islands in the South China Sea.

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