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China sentences Canadian Michael Spavor to 11 years for spying

Last Updated on 2021/08/11

Michael Spavor trial

The verdict delivered by a court in Dandong on Wednesday morning was linked to a Canadian court’s upcoming ruling on the extradition to the United States of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Spavor was found guilty of espionage and illegally providing state secrets to other countries.

He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, confiscation of personal property, and fined 50,000 yuan ($7,715), according to a statement by the Liaoning Dandong Intermediate People’s Court.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the sentence, condemning it as “totally unacceptable and unjust […] The verdict comes after more than two and a half years of arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process, and a trial that did not meet even the minimum standards required by international law.”

Spavor was arrested in 2018, shortly after the arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, an executive and daughter of the founder of Huawei, accused of circumventing sanctions on Iran. Western governments accused China of engaging in “hostage diplomacy” by arresting citizens and associating them with bilateral conflicts.

Spavor, who has now spent nearly 1,000 days in detention, was tried in secret earlier this year. In March, the national media outlet Global Times wrote that Spavor lived not far from the border with North Korea and organized cultural exchanges. He was accused of providing confidential documents to Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat and analyst at International Crisis Group.

According to The Guardian, the Canadian ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, expressed his disappointment with the sentence. The court also ordered his deportation from the territory but it is unclear when this might happen. In 2014, in a similar case, a pair of Canadian citizens, Kevin and Julia Garratt were detained, charged, and convicted in China after Canada extradited Su Bin, a suspected spy, to the United States. The two were released and deported in 2017 soon after Su struck a deal in the US.

According to Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a senior fellow at the graduate school of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa, this ruling signals that the Chinese are willing to deport him at any time if the Canadian government creates the right conditions for him to leave, namely by letting Meng return to China.

Yesterday, a Chinese court rejected the appeal of another Canadian citizen, Robert Schellenberg, whose prison sentence in a drug case was abruptly changed to a death sentence after Meng Wanzhou’s arrest.

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