Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday said he would not escalate a deepening trade and diplomatic dispute with China but added his government had no intention of backing down as it defended its interests.
Trudeau, speaking to an audience in Montreal just days after Beijing warned Ottawa not to meddle in Hong Kong's affairs, also repeated his call for restraint and respect for human rights as protests sweep the former British colony.
China detained two Canadian citizens and halted imports of canola seed and meat products from Canada after Vancouver police detained a senior Huawei Technologies Co Ltd executive on a U.S. arrest warrant last December.
"We must recognize that China is a growing power and increasingly assertive towards its place in the international order. But make no mistake - we will always defend Canadians and Canadian interests," Trudeau said.
"We have a long history of dealing directly and successfully with larger partners. We do not escalate, but we also don't back down," he added.
China on Sunday warned Ottawa to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs a day after Canada issued a joint statement with the European Union in defense of the "fundamental right of assembly" for Hong Kong citizens.