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Canadian jailed for 11 years in China for spying

2021-08-11 HKT 11:33
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  • Michael Spavor was arrested in 2018 after Canada’s detention of a senior executive at tech giant Huawei. File photo: AP
    Michael Spavor was arrested in 2018 after Canada’s detention of a senior executive at tech giant Huawei. File photo: AP
Jimmy Choi reports
A Chinese court on Wednesday jailed Canadian businessman Michael Spavor for 11 years after finding him guilty of spying in a case his country has condemned as politically motivated.

Spavor was detained in 2018 along with compatriot Michael Kovrig on what Ottawa has said are trumped-up charges after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on a US extradition warrant.

Relations between the two countries have hit rock bottom, with China also accusing Canada of politicising legal cases.

Spavor "was convicted of espionage and illegally providing state secrets", Dandong city's Intermediate People's Court said in a statement.

"He was sentenced to 11 years in prison."

The court also announced that he will be deported.

The Canadian ambassador to China condemned the jailing of Spavor.

"We condemn that decision," Dominic Barton told reporters outside the court. "There is the opportunity for an appeal. That's something that he (Spavor) will talk with his lawyers about."

Canadian diplomats, barred from entering Spavor's three-hour trial in Dandong this March, were present during Wednesday's verdict and sentencing.

The verdict comes a day after a Chinese court upheld the death sentence of another Canadian citizen on a drug smuggling conviction.

Spavor and Kovrig -- a former diplomat -- were formally charged with spying in June last year, and their separate trials took place in March.

The pair have had almost no contact with the outside world since their detention.

Spavor's family have maintained he was innocent of the accusations against him, saying he had done much as a businessman to "build constructive ties" between Canada, China and North Korea.

While Beijing has insisted the detention of the two Canadians is lawful, it calls Meng's case "a purely political incident".

Meng's extradition hearings began last week in Vancouver, after nearly three years of court battles and diplomatic sparring.

The 49-year-old is the daughter of Chinese tech giant Huawei's founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei.

She is fighting extradition to the United States where she is accused of defrauding HSBC Bank by misrepresenting the relationship between Huawei and Skycom, a subsidiary that sold telecom gear to Iran.

That deal put HSBC in jeopardy as it risked breaching US sanctions against Tehran.

Meng, whose legal team deny the allegations and say the US case is flawed, lives in a mansion in Vancouver, but has to wear an ankle bracelet to monitor her movements at all times.

Her hearings are due to end on August 20 but no decision on her extradition is expected for several months.

Observers say the likely verdicts and sentences for both Canadians will track Meng's trial as China seeks leverage over Canada.

Before the verdict, Canada's former ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, told AFP that Spavor would likely receive a "harsh sentence" as Chinese leaders seek to pressure Canada into returning Meng.

Associate Professor Lynette Ong of the University of Toronto added: "If we see this as the beginning of a political bargaining process, the Chinese (are) likely to want to appear strong in the first instance."

China's judicial system convicts most people who stand trial. (AFP)
Last updated: 2021-08-11 HKT 12:28