A court in China on Wednesday sentenced Canadian citizen Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison for “providing state secrets” to foreign forces, a verdict that comes while the also controversial case of the financial director of the Chinese technology company Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, is being elucidated in Canada.
The Intermediate People’s Court of the northeastern Chinese town of Dandong announced the sentence in a prison in the town where Spavor is being held, which this Wednesday served 975 days deprived of liberty.
The conviction – announced five months after the trial, held in March – also includes the confiscation of personal effects worth 50,000 yuan ($ 7,712 or 6,585 euros) and the deportation, once the jail sentence has been served.
Dominic Barton, the Canadian ambassador to China, after attending the sentencing of Michael Spavor. Photo: AFP
After hearing the sentence, the Canadian ambassador to China, Dominic Barton – who was transferred to Dandong for the occasion – said through a video call to journalists gathered at the Canadian embassy in Beijing that cbids the verdict “in the strongest way possible”.
“Eleven years is a long time. We have to keep working to get him out. And of course before that time, “said the diplomat, who noted that there is a possibility of appeal.
Barton added that they were authorized a consular visit with Spavor – a businessman specialized in business with North Korea by that China charged with the aforementioned charges in June 2020 – after the verdict and that it transmitted three messages to them: “Thank you for the support; I am encouraged; I want to go home.”
Likewise, the Canadian ambassador said that he does not consider “a coincidence” that both the Spavor verdict and the confirmation of the death penalty for Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, also Canadian, for drug trafficking, have become known while the case of Meng Wanzhou.
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO, arrives in court in Vancouver, Canada. Photo: REUTERS
For Barton, both Spavor and his compatriot Michael Kovrig were “arbitrarily detained” in December 2018, days after the arrest in Canada, at the request of the United States, of Meng Wanzhou, after Washington requested Ottawa for her extradition after accusing her of bank fraud to violate trade sanctions imposed by the United States to Iran.
Meng, daughter of the founder of Huawei, was stopping in Canada on her way to Mexico, and her case is still unfolding in the Supreme Court of the province of British Columbia, on the Pacific coast of Canada.
Huawei’s CFO, whose release Beijing repeatedly demands, is on probation and lives with her family in one of the two mansions she owns in Vancouver.
No news from Kovrig
Asked about the case of the other Canadian accused of espionage, Michael Kovrig, Barton assured have no news “at this time”.
Kovrig – also accused in June 2020 of stealing state secrets and tried behind closed doors on March 22 – is a diplomat on leave of absence who, at the time of his arrest, in December 2018, was working for the laboratory of ideas. International Crisis Group.
For its part, the United States (the third vertex in what diplomatic sources consider a “diplomatic triangle”), demanded “immediate and unconditional release” by Spavor and Kovrig.
Through a statement sent to the press, the US delegation protested what it defined as a “blatant attempt to use human beings as elements of negotiation.”
Likewise, Washington condemned “the lack of the minimum guarantees of protection” to Spavor and Kovrig during the time that “the Michaels” (as they are both popularly known) have been in custody.
The United States was not the only country in show support for Canada in the case of Spavor, since diplomats from 25 countries met at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, which, according to the Canadian ambassador, sends “the resounding message” to China that “everyone’s eyes are watching her”.