Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters in a Saturday morning conference call that Canada's ambassadors around the world are now talking with their host countries about the "worrying precedent" China has set with its "arbitrary detention" of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
Freeland said Chinese authorities had not drawn a direct connection between the detention of the two men and Canada's move to arrest Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on December 1.
Meng was released on bail last week in Vancouver pending her USA extradition hearing on fraud charges related to sanctions-breaking business dealings with Iran.
Canada, supported by its allies, called on China to release two Canadians who have been detained in what is widely seen as retaliation for Canada's arrest of a top Chinese tech executive, pending extradition to the United States.
"It's very personal", Freeland said. Canada is a country governed by the rule of law. Canada respects its worldwide commitments, including by honouring its extradition treaty with the United States.
"It is the bedrock of democracy", she said. He was working for the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental think tank, when he was arrested in Beijing.
A source familiar with the conditions of Kovrig's detention says he is questioned three times a day and kept in a room with the lights on continuously.
Canada has said the detentions are unacceptable and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said China should free the men.
Spavor is a Canadian entrepreneur who runs a business promoting tourism and investment in North Korea and is reportedly close to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
A third Canadian was arrested in China for "working illegally", but Canadian authorities have said that appears to be a routine visa case.
Freeland thanked allies for speaking out.
The surprise arrest raises doubts about whether the trade truce will hold and whether the world's two biggest economies can resolve the complicated issues that divide them.
The US State Department also issued a statement supporting Canada's demand.
On Thursday, representatives of six Berlin-based institutions, which included the European Council for Foreign Relations and the German Marshall Fund, expressed concern about the spate of Canadians detained.
"I think most Canadians that are here are living in fear at some level, a fear of losing what they have here, a fear of getting arrested, fear of retribution", said Ricky Ng-Adam, founder of CoderBunker, a community of global software developers, who regularly travels to Shanghai for work. "This is clearly a hard moment in our relationship with China and it's important to keep on talking and raising issues directly with them as we are doing".
The EU, UK and U.S. also issued statements in support of Canada's stance.