Canadian jailed for 11 years in China in spy case linked to Huawei arrest

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Canadian Jailed For 11 Years In China In Spy Case Linked To Huawei Arrest Canadian Jailed For 11 Years In China In Spy Case Linked To Huawei Arrest
Michael Spavor
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By Joe McDonald and Ng Han Guan, Associated Press

A Canadian entrepreneur has been sentenced to 11 years in prison in a spy case linked to Beijing’s effort to push his country to release an executive of tech giant Huawei, prompting an unusual joint show of support for Canada by the US, Japan and 23 other governments.

China is stepping up pressure as a Canadian judge hears final arguments about whether to send the Huawei executive to the US to face charges related to possible violations of trade sanctions on Iran.

On Tuesday, a court rejected another Canadian’s appeal against a death sentence in a drug case that was increased after the Huawei executive’s arrest.


Meng Wanzhou (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press/AP)

Entrepreneur Michael Spavor and a former Canadian diplomat were detained in what critics labelled “hostage politics” after Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou was arrested on December 1 2018, at Vancouver Airport.

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Mr Spavor was sentenced by a court in Dandong, on the North Korean border. The government has released few details other than to accuse him of passing sensitive information to the former diplomat, Michael Kovrig, beginning in 2017.

Both have been held in isolation and have little contact with Canadian diplomats.

The Canadian government condemned Mr Spavor’s sentence, saying he and Mr Kovrig are being “detained arbitrarily” and calling for their immediate release.

The legal process in Mr Spavor’s case “lacked both fairness and transparency”, said ambassador Dominic Barton outside a detention centre where the sentence was announced.


Dominic Barton arrives at the detention centre (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later said the trial “did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law”.

Mr Spavor has two weeks to decide whether to appeal, according to Mr Barton.

“While we disagree with the charges, we realise that this is the next step in the process to bring Michael home and we will continue to support him through this challenging time,” his family said in a statement.

“Michael’s life passion has been to bring different cultures together through tourism and events shared between the Korean peninsula and other countries including China and Canada. This situation has not dampened, but strengthened his passion.”

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Diplomats from the US, Japan, Britain, Australia, Germany and other European countries and the European Union gathered at the Canadian embassy in Beijing in a show of support. They also have issued separate appeals for Mr Spavor and Mr Kovrig to receive fair trials or to be released.

“The practice of arbitrarily detaining individuals to exercise leverage over foreign governments is completely unacceptable,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “People should never be used as bargaining chips.”

Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said his country was “moved by the demonstration of solidarity from our international partners”.


International diplomats at the Canadian embassy in Beijing (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies and daughter of the company’s founder, was arrested on US charges of lying to the Hong Kong arm of British bank HSBC about possible dealings with Tehran in violation of trade sanctions.

Her lawyers argue the case is politically motivated and what she is accused of is not a crime in Canada.

Beijing has criticised the arrest as part of US efforts to hamper its technology development. Huawei, a maker of network equipment and smartphones, is China’s first global tech brand and is at the centre of US-Chinese tension over technology and the security of information systems.

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Beijing denies there is a connection between Meng’s case and the arrests of Mr Spavor and Mr Kovrig, but Chinese officials and state media frequently mention the two men in relation to whether Meng is allowed to return to China.

Earlier, Mr Barton said he did not think it was a coincidence the cases in China were happening while Meng’s case was advancing in Vancouver.

Asked whether Canada was negotiating over possibly sending Meng home in exchange for the release of detained Canadians, he said: “there are intensive efforts and discussions. I don’t want to talk in any detail about that. But that will continue.”

“Our collective presence and voice send a strong message to China and the Chinese government that the eyes of the world are watching,” the ambassador said.

Barton said Chinese authorities cited photos taken by Spavor at airports that included military aircraft.

“A lot of it was around the photo evidence,” the ambassador said. “He obviously had a different view on that.”

Spavor worked in China but had extensive links with North Korea in tourism and other commercial ventures that brought him into contact with the isolated communist state’s leadership.

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