Trials begin in China for two Canadians accused of espionage

 Steph Deschamps / Mars 19, 2021

 

China began trying two Canadians on Friday on espionage charges, with Ottawa saying it hopes for their immediate release, amid intense diplomatic activity between Beijing and the United States

 

Michael Spavor, one of two men detained in China since late 2018, was tried in just over two hours in the northeastern city of Dandong, a Canadian diplomat announced. The court said the verdict would be announced at a later date. Neither diplomats nor the press were allowed to attend the hearing or see the accused. As they left the courthouse, Canadian diplomats waved at a police van with tinted windows, thinking the businessman was in it.

 

Spavor was arrested in December 2018 along with a fellow Canadian, Michael Kovrig, shortly after an executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei was arrested in Canada at the request of the United States. Beijing denies any link between these two cases. The number two at the Canadian embassy in China, Jim Nickel, told reporters that his country was working closely with the United States to secure the release of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig, who is scheduled to go on trial Monday in Beijing. We are confident that to some extent this trial will lead to their immediate release, he said.

 

The Canadian diplomat said he was frustrated by not being able to attend the hearing and by the lack of transparency of the procedure. The trial opened as a meeting between senior Chinese and American leaders began in Alaska in a chilly atmosphere, for the first direct contact at this level under the administration of Joe Biden. The case has led to an unprecedented deterioration in relations between Beijing and Ottawa.

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