Saturday, December 4

Canadian Jailed in China Accused of Taking Military Photographs | porcelain

Chinese state media have accused jailed Canadian Michael Spavor of supplying Michael Kovrig with photographs of military equipment in repeated acts of espionage, offering unusual details of the allegations against the two men.

The two men were arrested in December 2018, just days after Canadian officials arrested Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou. Last month, Spavor, who lived in China and organized trips to North Korea, was sentenced to 11 years in prison and deportation from China. Kovrig, a former diplomat turned analyst at the International Crisis Group, was also secretly tried in March. Kovrig has yet to announce his verdict or sentence.

On Thursday, China’s state-backed tabloid the Global Times accused Spavor of being a “key informant” for Kovrig, who is accused, but not yet convicted, of espionage. Citing an anonymous source, he said that Spavor took photos and videos of military equipment, which he considered “second-level state secrets” and “illegally provided some of those photos to people outside of China” and to Kovrig.

The Global Times report claimed that Kovrig entered China in 2017 and 2018 “under the guise of a businessman and a false pretext of commerce” to collect large amounts of undisclosed intelligence and “second-level state secrets” related to China’s national security. , and wrote reports.

Both men maintain their innocence of the charges, but China’s justice system is widely criticized for its lack of judicial transparency and fairness, reporting conviction rates of around 99.9%.

Anonymous complaints in the Global Times are some of the only details of the espionage allegations against the men, whose cases have been shrouded in secrecy, from their detention conditions to closed-door trials and the lack of sentencing documents.

The report was first published in the English section of the Global Times and was later followed by the Chinese-language media. Sophie Richardson, director of Human Rights Watch for China, said the report, in English only, gave the impression that it had been written for foreign consumption, especially Canadian, to “reinforce the idea that this case had a real legal basis. and credible. “

“Let’s be clear,” he said, “even if the alleged evidence offered in this article were accurate, the facts remain that the violations in both cases regarding the right to a fair trial are scandalous and egregious.”

Canada and other governments have characterized long-standing cases against men as arbitrary detentions, lacking in transparency and failing to meet international standards of justice. The arrests have been called “hostage diplomacy” in retaliation for the arrest of Meng, the chief financial officer of tech giant Huawei, a few days earlier.

Meng, who is also the daughter of the founder of Huawei, was accused of violating US sanctions against Iran during business deals and was arrested in Canada on behalf of US authorities. China denies the arrest of Spavor and Kovrig, and the increased sentence of fellow Canadian Robert Schellenberg, were retaliation, but also repeatedly links their freedom to the Meng case.

The Global Times article also moved from Spavor’s claims to discussion of Meng’s case, saying that China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, had spoken with her by phone “to express sympathy and denounce the misdeeds of the Canadian government. “.

Richardson called the inclusion “revealing” and pointed to the “quid pro quo” demands inherent in the cases.

“It shows that this is about politics, not law,” he said.

Peter Dahlin, director of the NGO Safeguard Defenders, said it was remarkable that in two years the security services had apparently only built a vague case against Spavor, with charges that “could be used against the majority of foreigners who have stayed in China. for a long time”. period”.

Dahlin said the Global Times article also revealed that Chinese authorities were more focused on Kovrig than Spavor.

“The fact that the article mentions Kovrig directly, and his supposed ‘superior position’ in his intelligence work, of course, is intended to indicate that, unless things change, Kovrig can expect a harsher sentence than Spavor,” said.

“As such, the article is primarily a political statement addressed to the Canadian government. It is also quite a clear act of desperation on the part of the CCP, which is running out of tools to put pressure on Canada. “

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