Update (1100ET): Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the news of China charging two Canadian citizens with espionage by saying he was “very disappointed” with Beijing’s decision.
TRUDEAU: VERY DISAPPOINTED IN CHINA’S DETENTION OF KOVRIG, SPAVOR
— BNN Bloomberg (@BNNBloomberg) June 19, 2020
Watch the briefing live:
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More than 18 months have passed since Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat working for an NGO on the mainland, and Michael Spavor, a Canadian businessman specializing in running novelty tours to North Korea, were abruptly arrested by police in China and informed they were under investigation (in China, police can take you into custody before the investigation even begins) for threatening China’s national security – an extremely serious charge.
Since then, the two men have been confined to Chinese prisons, denied contact with their families, and have had only minimal contact with Canadian diplomats. Their arrests were widely seen as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, which occurred just days before Kovrig, the first of three Canadians to be apprehended (one was later released) disappeared.
Since their arrest, Kovrig and Spavor have been held in solitary confinement and subjected sometimes brutal interrogations, according to people familiar with their cases. Before the pandemic, each man had been allowed visits with consular officials, but those were suspended months ago.
On Friday, the two men were formally indicted on espionage charges, suggesting that, if Canada doesn’t simply allow Meng to walk free, both may be facing lengthy prison terms in China. Or even the possibility of execution. Canada has denounced their arrests as arbitrary and accused Beijing of using these two men as political pawns in retaliation for the arrest of Meng, who is facing extradition to the US.
Both men have been accused of “spying on national secrets” and sharing intelligence with “outside entities.” China’s court system is completely controlled by the CCP and has an almost 100% conviction rate once charges are handed down, according to the BBC.
The case has deeply strained relations between the two countries, and this latest decision will likely cause relations between Beijing and Ottawa to deteriorate even further.