Beijing says a tantalizing exchange between Xi and Trudeau was sparked by a leak to the media

By Eduardo Baptista

BEIJING (Reuters) – A tense conversation between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at this week’s G20 summit was sparked by details of a conversation between the two leaked, China’s foreign ministry said on Friday .

A video released by Canadian broadcasters on Wednesday showed Xi telling Trudeau through a translator that “everything we discussed was leaked to the newspaper(s), that’s not appropriate.”

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said in response to a question on Friday that Trudeau went to see Xi at the G20 welcoming ceremony on Tuesday and the two had a brief conversation.

“Shortly after, Reuters, citing a person in the Canadian government, said Trudeau was expressing serious concerns about so-called actions of Chinese interference,” Mao told a regular media briefing, citing a report that day about the conversation between the two.

“The Chinese side has already issued a stern protest to the Canadian side about this, stressing that the arbitrary leaking of conversations between leaders to the outside world was not in line with the common sense of high-level exchanges,” Mao added.

The video captured a rare candid moment for Xi, whose photo has been carefully curated by China’s state media.

At the time, Trudeau responded to Xi’s criticism of the leak by saying, “In Canada, we believe in free and open and candid dialogue and that’s what we’re going to continue to have. We’ll continue to look at constructive cooperation, but there will be things there we don’t agree.”

Although the incident received wide coverage in foreign media, it has not received any attention in China and the State Department has not included references to it in the published transcript of a briefing on Thursday, which asked four questions about the incident.

The exchange between the leaders revealed the bilateral tension that has run high since the 2018 detention of a senior executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies, Meng Wanzhou, and Beijing’s subsequent arrest of two Canadians on espionage charges.

All three were later released.

Relations have been tense again this month after Trudeau accused the Chinese government of “aggressive” meddling in Canadian elections.

Spokesman Mao described that claim as “complete nonsense” on Friday.

(Reporting by Eduardo Baptista; editing by Robert Birsel)

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