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Kamis, 18 Maret 2021

China to put detained Canadians on trial this week - Sydney Morning Herald

By Rob Gillies

Toronto: The Canadian government has confirmed that China will begin trials on Friday for two Canadians arrested two years ago in apparent retaliation for Canada’s detention of a senior executive for Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies.

Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said the Canadian Embassy in Beijing had been notified that court hearings for Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were scheduled to take place on Friday and Monday. Spavor’s court hearing will take place Friday and Kovrig’s on Monday.

Detained in China: Canadian nationals Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

Detained in China: Canadian nationals Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.Credit:AP

“The arbitrary detention of Mr Kovrig and Mr Spavor is a top priority for the Government of Canada and we continue to work tirelessly to secure their immediate release,” Garneau said in a statement.

“We believe these detentions are arbitrary, and remain deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding these proceedings.”

The Communist Party tabloid The Global Times reported last week the men would “soon be tried” after they were charged with “crimes undermining China’s national security” in June 2020.

Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Spavor, an entrepreneur, were arrested in December 2018, days after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was detained at the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia. The US wants her extradited to face fraud charges.

China has revealed few details of the charges against the two, and Canadian diplomats allowed occasional visits have said little other than to call for them to be released.

Meng Wanzhou has become the highest profile target of a broader US effort to contain China and its largest technology company.

Meng Wanzhou has become the highest profile target of a broader US effort to contain China and its largest technology company.Credit:AP

The newspaper said Kovrig was “accused of having used an ordinary passport and business visa to enter China to steal sensitive information and intelligence through contacts in China since 2017, while Spavor was accused of being a key source of intelligence for Kovrig.”

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Meng, who remains free on bail in Vancouver, is the daughter of the founder of Huawei, which the Chinese government has promoted around the world as one of its national champions. Her arrest enraged Beijing, which sees the US case as a political move designed to prevent China’s rise, and it sent China-Canada relations into a tailspin.

China has also retaliated by placing restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola oil seed and handed death sentences to four Canadians convicted of drug smuggling.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan are set to meet with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska on Friday (AEDT). Blinken has pledged “absolute solidarity” with Canada.

Earlier on Thursday, the London Telegraph reported the Alaska talks could include discussion of a potential prisoner swap, involving Meng, and Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, two Hong Kong pro-democracy activists held in Hong Kong on charges related to new national security laws imposed by Beijing on the former British territory.

Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, who wrote to Biden earlier this month proposing the deal, told the Telegraph: “We’ve heard some rumours and rumblings.

“We really believe that the prisoner swap is a credible way to win freedom for these two extraordinary young people, and it would be a very symbolic first move for both sides, and a win-win,” she said.

Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China said of the trial notice: “The Chinese in my view wanted to send a very clear message on the eve of this first to face meeting in Alaska that if the Americans want to help the Canadians they have to make concessions and they have to make sure Mrs Meng will be returned to China.

“It’s a very worrisome development. We know things are preordained in China. Once you are formally charged in China you are found guilty 99.2 per cent of the time. This a highly political case. The sentence will be dictated by the Communist Party of China. It becomes a lot more complicated to extract them from China.”

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2021-03-18 06:53:26Z
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