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Canada slams China’s jailing of Michael Spavor as ‘unacceptable and unjust’

Michael Spavor  

Canada on Wednesday slammed China’s sentencing of businessman Michael Spavor to 11 years in jail on spying charges, calling for his immediate release.

Mr. Spavor and Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, were both detained in 2018, in cases dubbed by Canada as “hostage diplomacy”. Their detentions in China shortly followed Canada’s arrest of top Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou at Vancouver airport, based on a U.S. warrant accusing the Chinese telecom company of violating Iran sanctions. The case of Ms. Meng, who is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, is ongoing and she is facing extradition to the U.S. if found guilty, with a verdict expected in coming weeks.

The 11-year sentence for Mr. Spavor came a day after another court in China upheld a death sentence for a Canadian accused of drug smuggling, in another case seen by Canadian officials as linked to Ms. Meng’s case. Robert Schellenberg had been arrested in 2014 and later sentenced to 15 years in prison. The verdict was changed to a death sentence in early 2019, also shortly after Ms. Meng’s arrest.

Both verdicts this week came as hearings in Ms. Meng’s case reach their conclusion. On Wednesday, the court in Dandong, in northeastern Liaoning, said Mr. Spavor was convicted “of spying on China’s national secrets” and was ordered to be deported. Deportations of foreigners often follow the serving of their sentences, but the time served before deportation could be reduced at the discretion of judicial authorities. The courts in China are controlled by the Communist Party. Mr. Kovrig’s trial opened in March and he is awaiting a verdict. The Party-run Global Times said Mr. Kovrig “was accused of using an ordinary passport and business visa to enter China to steal sensitive information and intelligence through contacts in China since 2017, while Spavor was accused of being a key source of intelligence for Kovrig.”

The three cases, and Ms. Meng’s ongoing trial, have strained Canada’s relations with China. The detentions of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig have been seen by Canada as pressure points being used by China on the Huawei case, and criticised as “hostage diplomacy”. Chinese officials have rejected that charge, and instead have accused Canada of taking Ms. Meng “hostage” at the behest of the U.S. and demanded her release.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a strong statement on Wednesday hit out at Mr. Spavor’s conviction and sentencing, saying it was “absolutely unacceptable and unjust”. “The verdict for Mr. Spavor comes after more than two and a half years of arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process, and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law,” he said.


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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 6:35:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/canada-slams-chinas-jailing-of-michael-spavor-as-unacceptable-and-unjust/article35865517.ece

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