August 16, 2019 / 10:12 PM / a month ago

Trump, Trudeau discussed developments in Hong Kong, Canadians held in China

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sit behind a scale model of Air Force One as they meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

OTTAWA (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed the Hong Kong protests and the ongoing detention of two Canadians by the Chinese government, a statement from Trudeau’s office said on Friday.

The Hong Kong protests started as a peaceful rebuke of the government in April but have evolved into a direct challenge to Communist Party rule over this former British colony.

China detained two Canadian men shortly after police arrested Huawei Technologies Co HWT.UL Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant in Vancouver in December.

“The two leaders... discussed relations with China, including the continued arbitrary detention of two Canadians and ongoing developments in Hong Kong,” the statement said.

Canada’s dispute with China has been a nagging headache for Trudeau, and there have been no signs that it will go away before the October national election.

Further mass demonstrations in Hong Kong are expected over the weekend. China has likened the increasingly violent protests to terrorism and warned it could use force to quell them. Trump has urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet protesters to defuse the tension.

Trudeau and Trump also reaffirmed their support for the new North American free trade agreement and welcomed work towards its ratification, the statement said.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Chris Reese and Sandra Maler

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