The Canadian government is offering to open Chinese visas for citizens of the People’s Republic of China, a move that could be seen as an attempt to reassure Beijing that its citizens are not targeted by a clampdown on free speech in the U.S. and elsewhere.
China has not commented publicly on the new proposal, but Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday that it is in line with the spirit of China-Canada ties.
“The Chinese government is very supportive of Canada and its open societies and values,” she said.
Hua also said Canada was committed to promoting bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
The new proposal is part of a broader strategy that the Chinese government has promoted in recent years.
The Canadian-Chinese relationship has been strained by a series of Chinese government crackdowns on dissidents in the United States and Canada.
Since 2013, China has shut down many websites, blocked access to social media and censored the websites of the country’s ruling Communist Party.
It has also arrested journalists and bloggers in Canada.
Ahead of the speech, the Canadian government announced it was extending a temporary visa program to help the Chinese people enter Canada.
The move comes as tensions between Beijing and Washington are ratcheting up following the deaths of two American sailors in China last month.