The Canadian government has condemned Michael Spavor’s espionage conviction and 11-year prison sentence, attributing it to a sham trial.
A Wednesday ruling in Dandong ruled that Spavor was guilty of spying and illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities. He and Michael Kovrig, another Canadian who faces similar charges, have been held prisoner for almost three years.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau told reporters after the verdict that Canada’s ambassadors to China and the United States remain engaged in “intense discussions” aimed at securing the release of both Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig. The latter's treatment is seen as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition request.
“This work will continue to go on with the aim of arriving at the result of freeing the two Michaels,” Garneau said. “The practice of arbitrary detention, with a mock, sham trial, with absolutely no transparency whatsoever and a verdict that is completely unjustified, are not acceptable in terms of international rules-based law,” he told reporters.
Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig were both seized by Chinese state agents back in 2018, shortly after Meng’s arrest at the Vancouver international airport. The U.S. has accused her of lying to banking giant HSBC about Huawei’s business operations in Iran, putting the financial institution at risk of violating U.S. sanctions. She remains under house arrest in Vancouver.
Although China has urged Trudeau to intervene in the extradition process and send Ms. Meng home, the Prime Minister has refused, saying it would only embolden China or other countries to arbitrarily detain other Canadians in order to bend Ottawa to their will.
Meanwhile, a Chinese court has also rejected Robert Schellenberg’s appeal of a death sentence. His sentence was abruptly increased from a 15-year prison term to death after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou on U.S. charges related to possible dealings with Iran. Both of these recent incidents are blatant attempts to to step up pressure on Canada to release Meng.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said China’s conviction of Mr. Spavor is “horrific news.”
“The Communist regime in China is using one of our citizens as a diplomatic ploy, and it’s unacceptable. And we need to stand up clearly and have our allies stand up against this type of conduct by Communist China,” Mr. O’Toole said. “Canada is a smaller nation [than China] in population and economic size, but we are a giant when it comes to our values and we will stand up.”
O'Toole accused the Prime Minister of mishandling relations with China. “A Conservative government will stand up for our values, our citizens and our security,” he said.