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

Nick Trask, 36, and Ryan Ellison, 35, died in a boat collision on Osoyoos Lake in 2019. (Facebook photo)
Meth, excessive speed found as factors in Osoyoos boat crash deaths

Nick Trask, 36, and Ryan Ellison, 35, died in a boat collision on Osoyoos Lake in 2019

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

The automated external defibrillator, like the one pictured here, was stolen from the Skaha Lake Boathouse for the second time in a year. (File)
Life-saving device stolen from Penticton paddler community for second time

It’s hoped that a new boathouse will be able to better protect the device

scales of justice
Guilty or not guilty? Lamb waits on two judges’ decisions

Trials for two of Bryan Lamb’s criminal cases wrapped up this week

Katerina Bakalos of Summerland will release her first single on May 1. The music label is LMS Entertainment from Kelowna. (Contributed)
Summerland singer to release single under Kelowna-based label

Katerina Bakalos has performed a rock rendition of I Think We’re Alone Now

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Virtual meetings are taking a toll on local governance, according to multiple mayors in the North Okanagan. (Headway photo)
Virtual meetings leave North Okanagan politicians out of touch

More than a year of Zoom has led to a disconnect between officials, according to local mayors

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
‘I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident wants the Columbia River better protected

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Police road checks are coming for people travelling between regions while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. clarifies COVID-19 travel restrictions, Lower Mainland a single zone

Vehicle checks on highways, at ferry terminals to start Friday

Most Read