Saturday, 19 June, 2021


Family, employer call on China to release two Canadians

Michael Spavor Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor set to face court in China over spying charges
Bennie Garza | 19 March, 2021, 18:37

"So we're hopeful that, in some measure, this trial may too lead to their immediate release", Nickel said.

Canada said its consular officials were not given permission to attend the proceedings despite several requests. The hearing was held in private because it involved state secrets, the court in Dandong, in the northeastern province of Liaoning, said in a statement. No verdict was announced.

And 830 days after state security agents seized Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, China has yet to disclose any evidence against the men, whose lengthy incarceration is - outside denials from Chinese authorities - nearly universally seen as reprisal for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Kovrig, an analyst for International Crisis Group, was charged with spying on state secrets.

If she is extradited to the USA and convicted there, she could face a long prison sentence.

Meng, the daughter of the founder of Huawei, remains free on bail in Canada while her case winds its way through the courts.

The detentions came days after Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei, on a United States warrant.

"We remain deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding these proceedings".

China's embassy in Ottawa bristled at those comments.

"Michael is just an ordinary Canadian businessman who has done extraordinary things to build constructive ties between Canada, China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea", they said. "How hypocritical and arrogant".

Meng - the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, a former Chinese People's Liberation Army engineer - is accused of lying to bankers about the use of a covert subsidiary to sell to Iran in breach of USA sanctions.

The two men have had nearly no contact with the outside world since their detention.

"We appreciate the global support", he told reporters. Zhao sidestepped a question about the trials during a regular news briefing Thursday in Beijing.

"He loved living and working in China and would never have done anything to offend the interests of China or the Chinese people".

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been charged with espionage.

The family's statement added that Spavor "has had very limited access and interaction with his retained Chinese defense counsel", and that the vague charges against him have not been made public. It quoted family's Beijing-based lawyer, James Zimmerman of the law firm Perkins Coie, as saying the authorities' "failure to allow for effective legal representation is a violation of China's worldwide obligations" and meant the local defense team couldn't adequately prepare for a trial.

Another 10 diplomats from eight countries, including the U.S., Britain and Australia, stood on the street opposite the courthouse in a show of support. Biden called for the Canadians' release after a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month, saying that "human beings are not bartering chips".

Kovrig, a former diplomat, is due to go on trial on Monday in Beijing.

Outside the courthouse, Nickel said Canada still held hope that Spavor and Kovrig could be released through joint efforts with the U.S., whose Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan are now holding their first face-to-face talks with China's top diplomats in Anchorage, Alaska.

Blinken also cheered the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations, a Canadian initiative comprising a coalition of more than 50 countries opposed to the state-sponsored political detention of foreign nationals.

"Canadian officials continue to seek regular and meaningful consular access to Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig", Ms. Chartrand said.

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