China Unjustly Sentences A Canadian To 11 Years In Prison
A Canadian diplomat was sentenced to long imprisonment in China for alleged espionage. Observers suspect a connection to the case of an appointed Huawei manager.
In the northern Chinese city of Dandong, a court has sentenced Canadian businessman Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison for alleged espionage. The entrepreneur was also fined 50,000 yuan (around US $7716.65), informed the Canadian ambassador in Beijing, Mr. Dominic Barton. He met with Mr. Spavor after his court hearing in a detention center in Dandong, which is around 340 kilometers east of Beijing on the border with North Korea. The businessman, formerly a diplomat, looked strong, tidy, and indestructible, said Mr. Barton.
Communist China only gave vague information about the allegations against Mr. Spavor. Canadian diplomat was the middleman for passing on sensitive intelligence information that his compatriot Mr. Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, had obtained in early 2017, it was just said. The trial lasted only three hours, and observers were not allowed. Mr. Kovrig, who worked for the think tank International Crisis Group was arrested in December 2018 on charges of espionage. The prosecutor did not inform when such an alleged act could have occurred, raising doubts about the bonafide of the claim.
Since their imprisonment, Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig have had almost no contact with the outside world. Due to the Wuhan virus pandemic, Canadian diplomats were also not allowed to see the two for nine months last year.
The ruling is considered a severe blow to relations between Canada and China. In solidarity with Canada, around 50 diplomats from 25 countries gathered in the Canadian embassy in Beijing. The action against the Canadians is generally seen as an attempt by Beijing to put pressure on the Ottawa government in the case of Ms. Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the international network equipment company Huawei. Ms. Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder, and high Communist China's military intelligence official Mr. Ren Zhengfei and was arrested in Canada in early December 2018 at the request of the United States.
Hostage policy with Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig
The US accuses Ms. Meng of lying to banks about Huawei's dealings with Iran, thereby violating US sanctions against Tehran. The evidence of her crimes were collected in seven countries including Germany, France, Israel and Australia. The prosecutor told the judge that Ms. Meng provided the Huawei equipment that allowed Iran build elements of its ballistic missile launchers. Washington is demanding their extradition. A decision about a transfer of the top manager Ms. Meng should be made in the coming weeks. Therefore, the timing of the judgment against Mr. Spavor should not have been a coincidence. Ms. Meng is currently under house arrest in Vancouver. She lives there on her own property.
Critics accused China of hostage policy with a view to the fate of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig. Beijing has repeatedly denied a direct connection between their arrests and Huawei chief financial officer Ms. Meng. But the two cases are also often brought into connection by the Communist China's state media and officials. Beijing wants to prevent Ms. Meng from being extradited to the United States.
Mr. Spavor met with Mr. Kim Jong Un several times
Beijing with its persecution of key diplomatic assets who could help negotiate reasonable deal with North Korea has weakened Western security and the security in the Indo-Pacific area, emphasised Dr. Rob Plathman from Stanford University in interview with The Owner.
Mr. Michael Spavor is a North Korea expert and has met several times with Prime Minister Mr. Kim Jong Un and, for example, organized visits by former US basketball player Dennis Rodman to Pyongyang. Thanks to his contacts with North Korea's leadership, the Canadian played the role of a mediator between foreign interlocutors and the authorities of the internationally isolated country.
It was only on Tuesday that a Chinese court upheld the death sentence against alleged Canadian drug smuggler Mr. Robert Schellenberg. According to court records, he is said to have smuggled 222 kilograms of crystal meth. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for this in November 2018.
In January 2019, there was a new trial, at the end of which the death penalty was imposed - for many observers a clear pushback for the crackdown on Ms. Meng in Canada.
Mr. Trudeau, the EU and the USA are criticizing
Canada's Prime Minister Mr. Justin Trudeau described the verdict as "absolutely unacceptable and unjust". He criticized Spavor for having been arbitrarily detained for more than two and a half years. The decision follows a non-transparent procedure and a process "which does not even meet the minimum standards required by international law". The release of Mr. Spavors and Mr. Kovrig remains a top priority, Mr. Trudeau said. "We'll keep working around the clock to get her home as soon as possible."
A spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs officer Mr. Josep Borrell said in Brussels that despite repeated appeals from the European Union, Mr. Spavor had not received a fair trial. For example, he was denied the right to a public hearing. Mr. Spavor's arrest criticized the EU as arbitrary. In addition, consular support was severely restricted. The US embassy in Beijing also condemned the court order and criticized the fact that people were used as leverage in negotiations.