China: Canadian man to appear in court on spying charges

CANADA-CHINA

The detentions came days after Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei, on a U.S. warrant.

China has not publicly confirmed the court dates.

Spavor was present for the hearing, Nickel said, citing confirmation from his lawyer, but Spavor was not seen outside the closed court and there was no word on his condition. Police cars and vans with lights flashing passed through the gate to the court complex, located beside the Yalu River that divides China from North Korea.

Freelance reporter Patrick Fok says the timing of the espionage trials in China for Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig may be linked to trade talks between the US and China.

"Despite several official requests to Chinese authorities, Canadian officials have not yet received permission to attend the trials", the department said.

China arrested Spavor and fellow Canadian Michael Kovrig in December 2018, soon after Canadian police detained Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies, on a US warrant.

Meng - the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, a former Chinese People's Liberation Army engineer - is accused of lying to bankers about the use of a covert subsidiary to sell to Iran in breach of United States sanctions.

The two Canadians have been held ever since, while Meng has been released on bail. Both are charged with spying.

Spavor, an entrepreneur with North Korea-related business, was charged with spying for a foreign entity and illegally procuring state secrets.

A separate trial for ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig, also arrested in 2018, would follow on Monday in Beijing.

In a statement, Canada's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau, said the country's embassy in Beijing "has been notified that court hearings for Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are scheduled to take place on March 19 and March 22, respectively".

"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", said Garneau. In February, the cases led Canada to convene an global group opposing to the use of arbitrary detention as a coercive diplomatic tool, an initiative denounced by China as "hypocritical and despicable".

Prior to his detention and subsequent arrest, Kovrig was working for the International Crisis Group out of its Hong Kong office. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested in retaliation to the arrest of Meng Wanzhou a senior executive of Huawei.

Paisana said Meng was never told during questioning that she faced an arrest warrant in the U.S. Had she known, she would have immediately asked for a lawyer. British Columbia Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes suggested border officers would have questioned Meng more rigorously if their exam was actually a covert criminal investigation, as her lawyers said.

Canadian public opinion against China has hardened, with more than three quarters of Canadians saying relations can't improve until Kovrig and Spavor are released, according to a poll from this week.

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.

The family of Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig's bosses on Thursday called on China to release both men facing trial within days.

"It is not linked to China-U".

The court hearing for Canadian citizen Michael Spavor, detained by China since late 2018 on suspicion of espionage, ended on Friday after around two hours, in a case embroiled in a wider diplomatic spat between Washington and Beijing.

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