Justin Trudeau reacted angrily to the closed-door trial of a Canadian detained in China for more than two years on espionage charges, calling it “completely unacceptable.”
Businessman Michael Spavor, whose hearing ended after less than three hours on Friday, is one of two Canadians detained, in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest on a US extradition warrant for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, and charged. formally spying last June.
“Let me be very clear: his arbitrary detention is completely unacceptable, as is the lack of transparency around these judicial proceedings,” the Canadian leader said at a press conference.
Spavor’s compatriot, former diplomat Michael Kovrig, is scheduled to go to trial on Monday.
Canada has attacked the charges against its citizens as “bogus,” and all three cases have pushed relations between Ottawa and Beijing to their lowest point in decades, although China has denied any link between Meng’s arrest and action taken against the Canadians.
Diplomats and the media were unable to attend Spavor’s trial earlier in Dandong, where Canadian officials were joined by envoys from eight other nations, including the United States, France and Australia, out of court.
Canadian diplomats waved as a police van with tinted windows believed to be carrying Spavor exited court.
A court statement said the “private hearing” had ended and that the court would “select a date to announce the verdict.”
Spavor’s family has called for his unconditional release, saying he was innocent of the accusations and that he had done a lot as a businessman to “build constructive ties” between Canada, China and North Korea.
Trudeau said his government, along with allies he publicly thanked for showing “global solidarity in this case,” would continue to pressure China to immediately release the “Two Michaels,” as they are known.
“China needs to understand that it is not just about two Canadians,” he said.
“It is about respect for the rule of law and relations with a wide range of Western countries that is at stake with the arbitrary detention and coercive diplomacy that they have engaged in.”
These nations, he said, are “concerned about this not just because of these two Canadians, but about the possible implications for their own citizens.”
The timing of the Spavor and Kovrig trials comes as high-level talks between the United States and China began in Anchorage, Alaska, which observers said was no coincidence.
Jim Nickel, Charge d’Affaires at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, told reporters outside the courtroom in Dandong, northeast China, that Canada, with the support of the United States, hopes to obtain the “immediate release” of Spavor and Kovrig.
In Ottawa, Trudeau commented that “the Americans are taking this case seriously,” adding that the plight of the two Canadians will surely be raised by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his first face-to-face meeting with his Chinese. . counterpart Yang Jiechi.
The trials of the two Canadians, who were arrested in December 2018, also coincided with the extradition case of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou in its final weeks.
Trudeau has accused Beijing of detaining Spavor and Kovrig to pressure Canada to release Meng, while asserting the independence of Canada’s judicial system in dealing with the US extradition request.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism