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

Saanich police officers were one group of dozens that submitted dance clips to the Greater Victoria Festival Society, to help create the Dance Across Victoria video montage. (Youtube/Screenshot)
WATCH: Saanich police, Victoria mayor bust some moves in new Dance Across Victoria video

Montage features submitted dance clips from across Greater Victoria

Former Oak Bay High Grade 12 student Brandon Kip plays the $100,000 Steinway piano in the Dave Dunnet Theatre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay High Alumni Association passes torch to new president

The association has given back more than $70,000 in its 16 years

Saanich’s Malia Brodie competed in the Vancouver qualifiers for the 2020 National Championships. (Photo by BC Sport Karate Snaps)
PHOTOS: Saanich teen awarded $1,800 Karate Canada bursary to pursue officiant certification

Malia Brodie, 18, has black belt, nearly 15 years experience in karate

This photo courtesy of Leanne Grover shows the immediate aftermath of the fire at 7987 Galbraith Cres. that caused extensive damage and displaced six residents. (Leanne Grover/Submitted)
Residents of a Central Saanich duplex ‘fortunate’ to escape Sunday morning fire

Damage to the duplex extensive with one resident said to be ‘catatonic’ after escaping building

After more than a year, open forums will resume at a Saanich committee of the whole meeting on April 19 with up to five residents having the chance to speak for three minutes each about any district-related matter. (Black Press Media file photo)
Public input resumes at Saanich council following lengthy suspension due to pandemic

Up to five residents can present by phone for up to three minutes starting April 19

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read