2nd Canadian goes on trial in China on spying charges

Jim Nickel, center, the deputy chief of mission for the Canadian Embassy in China, with foreign diplomats is chased by cameramen as they arrive at No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court to attend former diplomat Michael Kovrig’s trial in Beijing, Monday, Sept 22, 2021. The Beijing court was is expected to put on trial Monday the second Canadian citizen held for more than two years on spying charges in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior executive of the telecoms giant Huawei. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)Jim Nickel, center, the deputy chief of mission for the Canadian Embassy in China, with foreign diplomats is chased by cameramen as they arrive at No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court to attend former diplomat Michael Kovrig’s trial in Beijing, Monday, Sept 22, 2021. The Beijing court was is expected to put on trial Monday the second Canadian citizen held for more than two years on spying charges in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior executive of the telecoms giant Huawei. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Jim Nickel, the deputy chief of mission for the Canadian Embassy in China, and foreign diplomats gather outside the No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court to attend former diplomat Michael Kovrig’s trial in Beijing, Monday, Sept 22, 2021. The Beijing court was expected to put on trial second Canadian citizen Michael Kovrig held for more than two years on spying charges in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior executive of the telecoms giant Huawei. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)Jim Nickel, the deputy chief of mission for the Canadian Embassy in China, and foreign diplomats gather outside the No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court to attend former diplomat Michael Kovrig’s trial in Beijing, Monday, Sept 22, 2021. The Beijing court was expected to put on trial second Canadian citizen Michael Kovrig held for more than two years on spying charges in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior executive of the telecoms giant Huawei. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

A second Canadian citizen held for more than two years on spying charges in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei went on trial in Beijing on Monday.

The trial of analyst and former diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing follows an initial hearing in the case of entrepreneur Michael Spavor in the northeastern city of Dandong on Friday.

Canadian diplomats have been refused access to the trials and been told hearings would be held behind closed doors because of alleged national security concerns. Diplomats and journalists have shown up nonetheless to seek information and show support.

Outside Beijing’s No. 2 Intermediate Court, Jim Nickel, the Canadian Embassy’s deputy chief of mission, told journalists he had been told the trial had begun, but was barred from entry in what he said was a violation of China’s international and bilateral treaty obligations. Nickel remained outside the courthouse until after dark, despite the lack of information.

“Michael Kovrig has been detained for more than two years now. He’s been arbitrarily detained and now we see that the court process itself is not transparent,” Nickel told reporters earlier in the day. “We’re very troubled by this but we thank those who have come out from the embassies here in Beijing and the international support that we’ve had for Michael, for Canada and the call that many of us are making for their immediate release.”

Nickel said 26 countries had sent representatives to show their support, including the U.S., the U.K, Australia and many European nations. It wasn’t clear how long the trial would last or when a verdict would be announced.

At a daily afternoon news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “The Canadian side made irresponsible remarks on China’s law-based handling of the cases of Canadian citizens with some other countries’ diplomats in China, which is a gross interference in China’s judicial sovereignty.”

China’s handling of the cases is “beyond reproach,” Hua said, while calling Canada hypocritical because it also reserves the right to try cases involving state secrets behind closed doors.

The Chinese government has provided almost no information about the accusations against the two, but a newspaper run by the ruling Communist Party alleges they collaborated in stealing state secrets and sending them abroad. No verdict has been announced in Spavor’s case and it wasn’t clear if additional hearings would be held.

However, such cases are almost always predetermined in China, and Beijing is seen as using Kovrig and Spavor as leverage to obtain the release of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested at the request of the U.S. at the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia, in December 2019. The two Canadians were detained in China just days later.

Meng is sought by the U.S. on fraud charges related to the telecom giant’s dealings with Iran, which is under American financial sanctions.

The two Canadians have been held ever since, while Meng has been released on bail. They were charged in June 2020 under China’s broadly defined national security laws.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blasted Beijing for holding the trial “in secret” without access for consular officials.

“Their arbitrary detention is completely unacceptable, as is the lack of transparency around these court proceedings,” Trudeau said in Ottawa.

“China needs to understand that it is not just about two Canadians. It’s about respect for the rule of law and relationships with a broad range of Western countries that are at play with the arbitrary detention and the coercive diplomacy that they’ve engaged in.”

Meng’s case has deeply angered China’s government, which has promoted Huawei as a global leader in mobile communications technology, and sees her detention as a deliberate attempt to malign Chinese companies and impede the nation’s growing economic and political clout. Beijing has demanded her immediate and unconditional release and has also restricted various Canadian exports, including canola oil seed, and handed death sentences to another four Canadians convicted of drug smuggling.

The U.S. and Canada have pledged to work together with China to seek the release of Kovrig and Spavor, but meetings between top U.S. and Chinese diplomats last week — the first since President Joe Biden took office — seemed to offer little hope.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Chinese human rights abuses “threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” while senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi said China “will not accept unwarranted accusations from the U.S. side,” and that relations had fallen “into a period of unprecedented difficulty.”

President and head of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping is driving the assertive approach to foreign relations, alongside bold domestic policies to eliminate poverty and restore rapid economic growth following the coronavirus pandemic, said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London.

“Xi is extremely ambitious, and he compares himself … to Mao Zedong and the first Emperor of China,” Tsang wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

READ MORE: Michael Spavor Canadian spy trial in China ends without verdict

___

Associated Press writers Rob Gillies in Toronto and Jim Morris in Vancouver, British Columbia, contributed to this report.

Sam McNeil, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

China

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack RCMP officers on the scene of a spreading brush fire in east Chilliwack between the CN tracks and Highway 1 on April 15, 2021. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Firefighters call for helicopter water drop as wildfire expands in Chilliwack

Chilliwack fire crews are on scene at wildfire near Cannor Road, but having difficulty accessing it

web
Fire breaks out inside Mission Walmart

Customers, staff evacuated as firefighters investigate

Japanese Canadian citizens being transferred into waiting trucks outside Hope Station House. NNMCC L2021-2-1-004. Photographs courtesy of the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre
Fight continues for historic Hope Station House

Ombudsman report and stop work order come alongside district’s move to remove heritage status

Lift equipment is driven away from a fire in an adjacent unit on Industrial Way in Chilliwack on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack firefighters deal with heavy smoke, extreme heat in challenging industrial fire

Crews successful in containing fire to 1 unit in industrial building, adjacent units suffer smoke damage

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Dr. Bonnie Henry – in a B.C. health order that went into effect April 12 – granted WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce workplace closures with COVID-19 spread. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
24 workplace closures being enforced in Fraser Health under new COVID-19 order

WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce closures if COVID-19 has spread to 3 or more employees

Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue were conducting training operations at Gold Creek Falls when a firefighter broke their leg. (Eileen Robinson photo - Special to The News)
Firefighter suffers broken leg during swift water rescue practice in Golden Ears park

A training exercise at Maple Ridge waterfall on Wedesday results in mishap

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Most Read