Hearings set for Kovrig, Spavor; two Canadians detained in China since 2018

Hearings set for Kovrig, Spavor; two Canadians detained in China since 2018

The Canadian government says China will begin trials in March 2021 for two Canadians, Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were arrested in 2019 in apparent retaliation for Canada's detention of a senior executive for Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies.

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 USA and China.

His comments come a day after Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said the Canadian Embassy in Beijing has been notified that court hearings for the two are scheduled to take place Friday and Monday.

Kovrig, a former diplomat who was working for an global non-profit group, and Spavor, an entrepreneur who promotes tourism and investment in North Korea, are Canadian citizens who were detained separately by China more than two years ago.

Garneau said Canada has asked to attend the hearings, and that they continue to request ongoing consular access to the pair in accordance with worldwide treaties.

China arrested the two men in December 2018 shortly after Canadian police detained Huawei Technologies Co Ltd chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a USA warrant.

The two Canadians have been held in prison since their arrest in December 2018. Meng - whose extradition hearing is now ongoing - has been held under house arrest in Vancouver since 2018.


"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.
She is charged with lying to American banks about Huawei's alleged dealings with Iran, in violation of United States sanctions.

"Canadian officials will continue to provide consular support to these men and their families during this unacceptable ordeal". Both she and Huawei deny any wrongdoing. Nearly all in-person consular visits to foreign prisoners in China have been paused since past year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with diplomats only able to speak to those detained via the phone.

Both face lengthy jail terms if found guilty.

US President Joe Biden has publicly called for the Canadian pair's release, saying after a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month that "human beings are not bartering chips".

Mr Kovrig worked for the International Crisis Group think tank.

In this file image made from a March 2, 2017, video, Michael Spavor, director of Paektu Cultural Exchange, talks during a Skype interview in Yanji, China.

Charges against the two Canadians - who have been accused of espionage - are widely perceived in the West as retaliation for Meng's arrest, although China has denied this. "We urge the U.S.to correct its mistakes immediately and let Ms. Meng Wanzhou return to China safely immediately".

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