Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to defend human rights in China, saying he will not tolerate "coercive" diplomacy.
His remarks on Friday come a day after the Chinese ambassador warned that granting asylum to Hong Kong protesters could put Canadians in danger.
“We will stand up loudly and clearly for human rights, all around the world, whether it’s talking about the situation faced by the Uighurs, whether it’s talking about the very concerning situation in Hong Kong, whether it’s calling out China for its coercive diplomacy,” said Trudeau .
China’s ambassador to Ottawa, Cong Peiwu, warned Canada on Thursday against granting asylum to Hong Kong activists, which he said could have consequences for the “health and security” for 300,000 Canadians.
Relations between the two nations have been tense since 2018, when two Canadians were detained in China over spying allegations.
Some leading Hong Kong protesters have fled for the West in recent months after the mainland authorities in Beijing passed a security law that reduces the city's autonomy and makes it easier to punish pro-democracy protesters.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, is part of China but enjoys unique freedoms as part of the conditions of its handover from the UK.
The US sanctioned Chinese politicians over the summer. China is accused of mass detentions, religious persecution and forced sterilisation of Uighurs and others Muslims living in its far west.
Mr Trudeau said he would not try and antagonise Beijing, but would not back down from protecting Canadian interests and standing up for human rights around the world.
Mr Trudeau's government has faced mounting pressure to repair relations with Beijing, nearly two years after the arrest of Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman following Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese Huawei official and the daughter of the company’s founder.
Canadian police detained Meng in Vancouver on a US extradition request nine days before Kovrig and Spavor were arrested. The Huawei case has strained relations between Canada and China since then.