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[加拿大新聞] Foreign affairs minister has repaid mortgages held with state-run Bank of China

Foreign affairs minister has repaid mortgages held with state-run Bank of China                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                                                                                      
                            Rachel Gilmore                                                                CTVNews.ca Writer                                                                
                                                                                                    @atRachelGilmore
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                                                                                                                                                        Published Tuesday, June 23, 2020 2:50PM EDT                                                                                                                              Last Updated Tuesday, June 23, 2020 7:26PM EDT                                                                             
                                                                                                   

                                 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
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OTTAWA --         Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne has repaid in full the mortgages he held with the state-run Bank of China and has refinanced them with a Canadian bank.
        Champagne shared the news during a Tuesday House of Commons health committee meeting.
        "Both mortgages have been repaid in full and have been refinanced with a Canadian bank, and the public disclosure will be reflecting so," he said.                                                                                                                              Related Stories                                            
                                                      
                     

        "I spoke to the ethics commissioner and we're in the process of filing a new version that will reflect that."
        The minister had come under fire after the Globe and Mail reported that he held two mortgages with the state-owned Bank of China in London, which at the time of the report on June 10 were valued at $1.2 million.
        When the report first emerged, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer suggested that Chinese Communist Party leadership could use the mortgages to put pressure on the foreign affairs minister at a time when relations between our two countries have hit the deep freeze.
        "Owing someone over a million dollars -- that's pretty big leverage," he said during a press conference on June 12.
        Champagne responded to the accusation during the committee meeting on Tuesday.
        "Neither of these mortgages, nor any of my other liabilities, have ever had a bearing on my function as public office holder," he said.
        Since the story first broke, Champagne's office has explained that the minister followed all the rules with respect to the mortgages and had actively disclosed them to the relevant watchdogs.
        "When he entered politics, the two mortgages with Bank of China (UK) Ltd. along with all his other liabilities and assets have been fully disclosed to the ethics commissioner and have been placed in the online registry," Champagne's spokesman Adam Austen told The Canadian Press at the time.
        "Neither of these mortgages or any of his other liabilities have ever had any bearing on his function as a public office holder."
        Shortly after the news broke that Champagne had addressed the two mortgages, Conservative MP Garnett Genuis took to Twitter to express his frustration — accusing the government of viewing the mortgages as "no big deal."
        "Not only does Champagne STILL think it's okay for Canada's top diplomat to be indebted to the CCP - he only acted after he was caught," Genuis wrote in the tweet.
        Still, under heavy criticism for both the optics and the potential leverage involved with holding the two mortgages, Champagne has now taken the step of refinancing with a Canadian bank — thus breaking his ties with the Chinese state-run institution.
        The news comes at a tense time for Canada-China relations.
        Relations between Canada and China boiled over following Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's arrest in December 2018. Canadian authorities arrested Meng in Vancouver after the United States requested her extradition.
        The arrest infuriated China, which subsequently arrested Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in what the Canadian government has described as retaliation — though China insists otherwise.
        Following China’s decision on Friday to charge Spavor and Kovrig with espionage, Trudeau once again emphasized the link between the two detained Canadians and the Meng case.
        "They made those links from the very beginning, and continue to put political pressure on Canada through that detention," Trudeau said Monday.
        "It has been obvious from the beginning that this was a political decision made by the Chinese government, and we deplore it, and have from the very beginning."
        China also briefly banned the import of Canadian beef and pork, blaming it on a banned animal feed additive they claim was found in a shipment of Canadian pork.
        CANADA UNDER PRESSURE TO BRING DETAINED CANADIANS HOME
        Meanwhile, as China continues to clearly link Spavor and Kovrig's fate to the outcome of Meng's extradition case, the Canadian government has been under increasing pressure to take steps to bring Spavor and Kovrig home.
        In an interview with CTV Power Play on Tuesday, prominent defence lawyer Brian Greenspan said the justice minister has authority under the Extradition Act to intervene in Meng's extradition case — despite the government's repeated insistence that the court process be allowed to unfold with no political input.
        "The process itself is initiated by the minister of justice, initiated with an authority to proceed, and during that first phase of extradition, which is the judicial process, there's express language which permits the withdrawal of that authority to proceed at any time. So it is an option available," Greenspan said.
        He called it a "safety valve" for the minister to evaluate whether an extradition should proceed.
        However, when asked about this option during his Tuesday press conference, Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos emphasized the importance of judicial independence.
        "In Canada, we have not only a tradition but a responsibility to work in a manner that is supportive of the integrity and the independence of our justice system," Duclos said.
        "This is very important for the way in which our institutions work in Canada, we have a separation between the executive, and the legislative, as well as the judicial systems, and that's exactly what it should be."
        However, as Meng's case slowly works its way through Canadian courts, Spavor and Kovrig continue to languish in Chinese detention — where they have now spend over 560 days

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