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Jailed Canadians to Face Trial in China

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Jailed Canadians to Face Trial in China

After two years in detention, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor will face trial for espionage, amid accusations that Beijing is using them for “hostage diplomacy.”

Jailed Canadians to Face Trial in China

In this image made from a video taken on March 28, 2018, Michael Kovrig, an adviser with the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based non-governmental organization, speaks during an interview in Hong Kong.

Credit: AP photo

China said it has followed the law and protected the legal rights of two Canadians due to go on trial Friday in a case Canada believes is a pressure tactic over its detention of an executive at Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, were arrested in December 2018, days after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver, British Columbia. The United States wants her extradited to face fraud charges related to her company’s dealings with Iran.

Kovrig and Spavor face spying accusations, and Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said the Canadian Embassy in Beijing has been notified that court hearings for the two are scheduled to take place Friday and Monday.

“China’s judicial organs handle the cases in accordance with law and fully protect all the legal rights of the persons involved,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing Thursday.

China has demanded Meng’s immediate and unconditional release, saying the United States engineered her detention as part of a drive to contain China’s growing rise. Canadian authorities say Kavrig and Spavor were arbitrarily arrested to put pressure on Ottawa and say they should be released without charge.

Meng, the daughter of the founder of Huawei, remains free on bail in Canada while her case winds its way through the courts. Little information has been released about the charges against Kovrig and Spavor, or their conditions in detention, although the ruling Communist Party newspaper Global Times this week said the two were allegedly part of a conspiracy to steal Chinese state secrets.

Meng’s arrest enraged Beijing, which has also retaliated by restricting various Canadian exports, including canola oil seed, and handed death sentences to another four Canadians convicted of drug smuggling.

The legal tussle is expected to be raised at a meeting later Thursday in Alaska between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and top Chinese diplomats. Blinken has pledged “absolute solidarity” with Canada in calling for Kovrig and Spavor to be freed.

Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, called the upcoming trials a “very worrisome development.”

“The sentence will be dictated by the Communist Party of China. It becomes a lot more complicated to extract them from China,” Saint-Jacques said.