The trial of Michael Spavor, who along with another Canadian has been detained in China for more than two years, lasted just two hours and ended without a verdict.
Spavor, an entrepreneur, and Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, were arrested in December 2018, days after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was detained in Canada at Vancouver International Airport. The U.S. wants her extradited to face fraud charges related to her company’s dealings with Iran.
STORY: The trial of Michael Spavor who has been detained in China for more than two years lasted just two hours, and ended without a verdict. Canadian consular officials were barred from attending. https://t.co/25aSSncqnB pic.twitter.com/hGBUNDWwAU
— CityNews Vancouver (@CityNewsVAN) March 19, 2021
Canadian consular officials were barred from attending Spavor’s trial Friday, and will similarly be banned from attending Kovrig’s trial Monday.
“The official notification received from Chinese authorities indicated that these trials are closed to both the public and the media. Despite several official requests to Chinese authorities, Canadian officials have not yet received permission to attend the trials,” Global Affairs spokesperson Christelle Chartrand said on the eve of Spavor’s trial.
“We remain deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding these proceedings,” Chartrand added.
China has demanded Meng’s immediate and unconditional release, saying the U.S. engineered her detention as part of a drive to contain China’s growing rise. Canadian authorities say Kovrig and Spavor were arbitrarily arrested to put pressure on Ottawa and say they should be released without charge.
Meng, the daughter of the founder of Huawei, remains free on bail and living in a mansion in Canada while her case winds its way through the courts. Little information has been released about the charges against Kovrig and Spavor, or their conditions in detention, although the ruling Communist Party newspaper Global Times this week said the pair were allegedly part of a conspiracy to steal Chinese state secrets.
Meng’s arrest enraged Beijing, which has also retaliated by restricting various Canadian exports, including canola oil seed, and handed death sentences to another four Canadians convicted of drug smuggling.
The legal tussle is expected to be raised at a meeting later Thursday in Alaska between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and top Chinese diplomats. Blinken has pledged “absolute solidarity” with Canada in calling for Kovrig and Spavor to be freed.
Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said returning the two Michaels to Canada will be much more difficult after they are convinced or sentenced.
“The sentence will be dictated by the Communist Party of China. It becomes a lot more complicated to extract them from China,” Saint-Jacques said.