Michael Kovrig: Diplomats are denied access to China as Canadians are tried for espionage


Kovrig is one of two Canadians detained since 2018 after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, who is currently fighting extradition to the United States, where she is wanted for alleged violations of sanctions against Iran. On Friday, Canadian Michael Spavor was tried in Dandong, northeast China. His trial took place behind closed doors and lasted only two hours.

Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat who worked for the International Crisis Group (ICG), is accused by Chinese authorities of “stealing sensitive and intelligence information through contacts in China since 2017,” while Spavor, a businessman with a focus on North Korea , is accused of providing information to Kovrig.

Spavor’s trial came as US and Chinese officials barged barbs at the opening of a diplomatic summit in Alaska, the first meeting of the countries’ top diplomats since President Joe Biden took office.

Both Washington and Ottawa have repeatedly called for the release of Kovrig and Spavor, calling their detention political and arbitrary.

Extrajudicial talks with reporters On Monday, Canada’s chief executive Jim Nickel accused China of violating international treaty obligations by denying consular officers access to its citizens.

“Michael Kovrig has been detained for two years now, he has been detained arbitrarily, and now we see that the judicial process itself is not transparent and that makes us very concerned,” he said, adding that access was denied because ” diesthi is a so-called national security case. ”

Nickel thanked other diplomats for their solidarity with Canada. He said there were around 28 representatives from 26 different countries in Beijing’s No. 2 Intermediate Court on Monday who “voted for the immediate release of Michael Kovrig.”

Reuters counted the USA, Great Britain, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic among the countries with diplomatic representation outside the court.

These diplomats and journalists were greeted by a large police presence. Repeated attempts by diplomats to enter the building before the start of the trial were turned down, according to local reporters.

Following the speedy trial of Spavor on Friday, the Dandong court said in a statement that it “will render its judgment at a later date, in accordance with the law.”

Family members and contacts of the two Canadian men have described that they are being held in poor conditions and that outside contact has been refused. Almost all personal consular visits to foreign prisoners in China since last year have been because of the Coronavirus pandemic, whereby diplomats can only speak to the detainees by telephone.

After Kovrig and Spavor were charged with espionage last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the “political” nature of their case, saying that their detention was a “decision by the Chinese government and we regret it”.

Chinese courts have a conviction rate of more than 99% and observers say the release of the two men could now be based on a diplomatic solution, possibly after a face-saving conviction and a serving sentence.

Trudeau has repeatedly refused to consider a deal by the two Canadians with Meng, whose imprisonment has led to a decline in Ottawa-Beijing relations. Last month, Canada’s parliament approved a non-binding motion accusing China of genocide against its Muslim minorities in the western region of Xinjiang, which further strains relations between the two countries.

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