China has announced that it will begin trials of the two Canadians it detained in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a telecommunications executive.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested in December 2018, days after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States.
Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said embassy staff in Beijing had been notified that court hearings for the two men were scheduled for Friday and Monday.
“The arbitrary detention of Messrs. Kovrig and Spavor is one of the Canadian government’s top priorities and we continue to work tirelessly to secure their immediate release,” Garneau said in a statement Wednesday. “We believe that these arrests are arbitrary and we remain deeply concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding these procedures.”
Officials had anticipated that China would go ahead with the trials after a state-backed government. editorial last week he suggested that court appearances for the two men were imminent.
Kovrig and Spavor have been held without bail for nearly 830 days, since they were detained shortly after Meng was arrested on a US warrant in Vancouver.
Meng, who appeared in court on Wednesday, is fighting extradition to the US, where he faces bank fraud and conspiracy charges related to alleged violations of US sanctions. Both Meng and the Chinese telecommunications giant They deny wrongdoing and used Wednesday’s hearing to argue that Canadian authorities were “deliberately misleading” when they arrested her, also claiming that law enforcement officials violated her bill of rights. She is out on bail in a multi-million dollar home in Vancouver.
China has released few details of the charges against the men, but the Global Times, a state-backed newspaper, said Kovrig was “accused of having used an ordinary passport and business visa to enter China to steal sensitive information and intelligence through contacts in China since then. ” 2017, while Spavor was accused of being a key intelligence source for Kovrig ”.
Chinese courts have notoriously high conviction rates, and in some cases, a guilty verdict in espionage cases can mean life in prison.
It is unclear what access will be allowed in the courtroom, but Canadian officials have asked permission to attend the proceedings.
While news of the impending trials has dashed hopes that the men will be released, experts say Canada remains in a better position than when the men were first detained.
“The Biden administration has made it very clear that it is linking China’s treatment of America’s allies to American relations with China,” said Stephanie Carvin, a professor of international relations at Carleton University. For Canadian officials who fought for the former Trump administration to lobby on their behalf, the change in leadership has been a welcome development.
At the same time, men are seen as pawns in a broader geopolitical struggle from which China is apparently unwilling to back down.
“For [president] Xi Jinping, being seen as a defender of China and Chinese interests abroad is more important than a better relationship with the United States, ”Carvin said. “These are costs that they are willing to bear. We have seen them resort to trade wars that inevitably hurt Chinese consumers, but are seen as serving a greater interest. “
Because Huawei represents Chinese technological and industrial ambition, the arrest of its executive, who is also the daughter of its founder, has been something that the party’s leadership has not been willing to tolerate, Carvin said.
“That is why he is much more than an executive and two kidnapped Canadians. It is about China’s role in the world and what it is willing to tolerate from countries, ”he said. “And unless China feels like it will pay a huge cost for its actions, I don’t see them letting it go.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism