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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Canadian accused of spying by China goes on trial

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Canadian accused of spying by China goes on trial
Canadian accused of spying by China goes on trial

Canadian Michael Spavor went on trial Friday in the Chinese city of Dandong on espionage charges, after he was arrested along with fellow Canadian and former diplomat Michael Kovrig more than two years ago, in what is seen as part of a wider spat between China, as well as the U.S. and Canada.

Jayson Albano reports

A Chinese court held its first trial of a Canadian citizen charged with espionage on Friday, but it was the timing that raised a few eyebrows.

The trial of businessman Michael Spavor was held in Dandong, across the border from North Korea where he regularly went for work.

Spavor was one of what the Canadian press has called the 'two Michaels'.

Both are Canadians arrested by Beijing more than two years ago.

That happened not long after police in Vancouver detained Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, on a U.S. warrant.

Beijing has denied that the arrests of the two Canadians were in retaliation.

Canadian officials said they were denied access to Friday's trial on national security grounds.

Jim Nickel, The Deputy Head of the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, expressed his disappointment.

"There is an obligation on the Chinese authority's part to admit councillor officials to attend hearings of our citizens.

So we are disappointed in the lack of access and the lack of transparency." Hours after the trial ended, Beijing said it would set a later date for a verdict.

China has a conviction rate of over 99%.

Meng Wanzhou remains on house arrest in Vancouver as she fights extradition to the United States.

While Beijing has denied a link, Spavor's trial coincides with the first-ever talks between Beijing and Washington, since President Joe Biden took office.

A former Canadian ambassador said Beijing has its eye on Meng's release.

Some observers have said convictions of both men could facilitate a diplomatic agreement in which the pair are released and sent back to Canada.

The other arrested Canadian, former diplomat Michael Kovrig, is set to appear in court on Monday.

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