BEIJING, Aug.11 (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that a Chinese court’s sentencing of Canadian businessman Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison for espionage was “absolutely unacceptable” and called for his immediate release.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also condemned the conviction in a statement, saying the prosecution of Spavor and another Canadian accused of espionage was an attempt to use people as “bargaining chips”.
The espionage cases are embroiled in a wider diplomatic row involving Washington and Beijing, and Spavor’s conviction comes as lawyers in Canada representing the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei (HWT.UL) make a final push to convince a court not to extradite him to the United States. Read more
“China’s condemnation and condemnation of Michael Spavor is absolutely unacceptable and unfair,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“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 even meet the minimum standards required by international law,” he said. -he declares.
Trudeau has called for the release of Spavor and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, who is awaiting a verdict in his spy case.
China arrested Spavor and Kovrig in late 2018, just days after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver International Airport on a US warrant.
Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton, who visited Spavor at a detention center in northeast China after the verdict, said Spavor had three messages he asked to share with the world outside: “Thank you for all your support”, “I’m in a good mood” and “I want to go home”.
“While we don’t agree with the accusations, we realize this is the next step in the process of bringing Michael home and we will continue to support him during this difficult time,” the family said. Spavor in a press release.
Noting the presence of diplomats from 25 countries gathered at the Canadian Embassy, Barton said that “our collective presence and voice sends a strong signal to China and the Chinese government in particular, which all eyes of the world are watching.”
Blinken called on China to release Spavor and Kovrig “immediately and unconditionally”.
“The practice of arbitrarily detaining individuals to exert influence over foreign governments is totally unacceptable. People should never be used as bargaining chips,” he said.
The Dandong Intermediate Court also declared that 50,000 yuan of Spavor’s personal assets would be confiscated. He will be deported at the end of his sentence, Barton said.
The potential sentence ranged from 5 to 20 years.
China arrested Spavor in December 2018 and he was charged with espionage in June 2019. The Dandong court concluded a one-day trial in March 2021 and waited until Wednesday to announce the verdict.
Spavor’s family said in March that the charges against him were vague and had not been made public, and that he had “very limited access and interaction with his retained Chinese defense attorney.” Read more
Kovrig’s espionage trial ended in March and the verdict will be announced on an unspecified date. Read more
Some observers have said the convictions of the two Canadians may ultimately facilitate a deal in which they will be released and returned to Canada.
China has a conviction rate well over 99%, and public and media access to trials in sensitive cases is generally limited.
Since Meng’s arrest, China has sentenced four Canadians to death for drug trafficking. They are Robert Schellenberg, Fan Wei, Ye Jianhui and Xu Weihong. Read more
China has rejected the suggestion that the cases of the Canadians in China are linked to Meng’s case in Canada, although Beijing has warned of unspecified consequences unless Meng is released.
Meng has been accused of misleading HSBC Holdings PLC (HSBA.L) about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, which could lead the bank to violate US economic sanctions against Tehran.
Meng, who said she was innocent, fought her extradition from house arrest in Vancouver.
His extradition hearings in Canada are currently in their final weeks before a judge’s ruling, expected in the coming months, before Canada’s justice minister makes the final decision to extradite him.
Reporting by Gabriel Crossley, Yew Lun Tian, James Pearson and Michael Martina; Editing by Neil Fullick and Michael Perry
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