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

Kalesnikoff Lumber will be providing materials for a 21-storey apartment building in Vancouver. Rendering: Henriquez Partners Architects
Kalesnikoff supplying mass timber for several major projects

The West Kootenay lumber company will be making the products at South Slocan facility

School District 8 superintendent Christine Perkins will leave for Vernon’s school district at the end of the academic year. Photo: Submitted
School District 8 superintendent Christine Perkins resigns

Perkins is leaving to take over another district

The Kootenay Lake ferry terminals will receive a number of upgrades this year. File photo
Kootenay Lake ferry terminals to receive upgrades

The transportation ministry announced the $5.5-million project Thursday

Selkirk College has received provincial funding to assist students. File photo
Selkirk College receives funding to assist students

Provincial funding is available to West Kootenay students

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

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

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Most Read