The head of Canadian diplomacy, Marc Garneau, said after the conviction of a Chinese national Michael Spavor by a Chinese court that the government in Ottawa would appeal. The judgment was also condemned by the European Union, expressing its solidarity with Canada. A Beijing court sentenced Spaver to 11 years in prison on suspicion of espionage.
Michael Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Wednesday on charges of espionage and passing on state secrets China to other countries, and also to deportation.
“The practice of arbitrary detention combined with a travesty of the trial, without any transparency and a judgment that has no basis whatsoever, is unacceptable under international law based on the rule of law,” said Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau. He added that the Canadian government is in talks to find a way to release Spavor and another Canadian detained in December 2018, Michael Kovrig. Talks are being held with high-ranking representatives from China and the US.
The minister thanked Canada’s allies who joined the appeals for the release of the Canadians.
Conversation with the president of the USA
Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with US President Joe Biden about the Spaver and Kovrig affair. The post-interview communiqué repeated Canada’s use of the term “arbitrary detention by China” to refer to both Canadians. It was also added that both leaders agreed on the need for immediate release.
Following the Chinese court ruling on Spaver Trudeau, the statement stressed that the ruling was “totally unacceptable”. – The sentence was pronounced after more than 2.5 years of arbitrary detention in prison, lack of transparency, and a trial that did not meet even the minimum requirements of international law. In the case of Mr. Spavor and Michael Kovrig, also arbitrarily detained, our most important goal is to ensure their immediate release, Trudeau added.
The Canadian’s conviction was also condemned by the European Union. “There is no place for such detentions in international relations,” wrote the President of the European Council Charles Michel on Twitter. “The EU expresses its full solidarity with Canada in condemning the sentence against Michael Spavor. We are jointly calling for his release,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrel, noted that the trial was held behind closed doors, with no lawyers available, and that Spavor only had access to severely limited consular assistance.
“His right to a fair and public trial, as enshrined in international human rights law and the Chinese penal code, was not respected,” the spokeswoman added, stressing that the EU repeatedly urged China to comply with international legal obligations in order to guarantee a fair trial for Spavor.
Canadian media quoted a statement from the Spaver family on Wednesday, which insisted that it did not agree with the allegations and would work to bring Michael home. “Michael’s life passion was creating contacts between cultures thanks to tourism and common events (…) This situation did not weaken, but strengthened his passion” – his relatives said.
Spavor, who was active in the tourism industry, and Kovrig, a former diplomat, were arrested in China on December 10, 2018, nine days after Huawei’s vice president Meng Wanzhou was detained in Canada at the request of the US. Kovrig’s trial ended in March this year, but it is not known when his judgment will be handed down. Meng’s extradition process is currently underway in Vancouver. As the Canadian media emphasized, the detention of Spaver and Kovrig is widely viewed as Chinese retaliation for Meng’s arrest.
The case of Meng Wanzhou
The Beijing government says the Kovrig-Spaver and Meng cases are not related. However, Meng’s lawyers pointed out from the outset of the extradition process that the defense was hampered as her case might have an impact on others. And the former Chinese ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, told Global News last May that “the biggest problem in China-Canada relations is the case of Meng Wanzhou.”
Canada’s ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, quoted by the Canadian media, spoke on Tuesday, also referring to the recently issued sentence in the case of Canadian Robert Schellenberg, sentenced to death for drug smuggling, that he does not think this is a coincidence, that this is happening right now as things go on in Vancouver. In the case of Schellenberg, the Canadian government will seek his pardon.
Confusion about Spaver
There is another ambiguity in the case of Spaver, which the Canadian media indicate: he was sentenced to 11 years in prison and deported, although the court did not specify in the operative part of the sentence when the deportation was to take place.
Public broadcaster CBC quoted Canada’s ambassador to China, who was present at the court, and believes deportation will not take place until sentencing. However, Canada’s foreign minister said Wednesday the Canadian government wanted a clear answer, while Canada’s former ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, said this lack of precise wording indicated that a solution could be found.
Main photo source: ROMAN PILIPEY / PAP / EPA