Rights groups call on Trudeau to raise plight of prisoners held in China on trip

A coalition of Canadian human rights groups led by Amnesty International is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to raise the cases of 16 political prisoners when he visits China next week.

Amnesty Secretary General Alex Neve says in a letter to Trudeau that the human rights situation has deteriorated since his visit to China last year.

That includes a clampdown on human rights lawyers and moves to curtail freedom of assembly and expression, says Neve.

The coalition wants Canada to push for mandatory human rights assessments in any potential free trade negotiation with China.

International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne appears to be playing down expectations that Trudeau will announce formal trade talks next week.

The minister says in a speech today that Canada wants to ensure a level playing field for small- and medium-sized companies.