China and Canada’s Battle over CFO’s arrest heats up.
Chinese officials announced this month that they’ve indicted two Canadians on charges of espionage. The news comes after Beijing’s punitive campaign against Canada over the arrest of a top executive of the Chinese tech company Huawei. In 2018, Canada arrested its CFO, Meng Wanzhou, for fraud at the request of the United States and, ever since, the countries have been combative towards each other.
Chinese court officials said “Mr. Kovrig had been indicted in Beijing on charges of espionage and gathering state secrets and intelligence for foreign countries. Mr. Spavor was indicted in Dandong on charges of espionage and illegally providing state secrets for foreign countries.” Spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian added, “The criminal facts are clear, and the evidence is verified and sufficient.”
When asked how he viewed “hostage diplomacy,” Zhao responded, “You ask a question brimming with malice. You better ask the Canadian government what hostage diplomacy is.”
Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was therefore asked the same question and responded that officials are negotiating the release of the two men. He said, “Canada is doing everything it can to secure their release and end their arbitrary detention.” He confirmed authorities had “directly linked the case of the two Michaels to the judicial proceedings against Miss Meng.” Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, and Spavor, a writer and entrepreneur, were seized by the Chinese police a few days following Wanzhou’s arrest.
If convicted in the Communist country’s courts, the Canadians could face a lengthy prison sentences or even the death penalty.
“In the past these kinds of detentions would have been unthinkable,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University. “It’s a clear illustration of this new Cold War. We are in a much more conflictual era. These two men have been kept as hostages. There’s no other word. It shows how backward and unreliable the system is in China.”
The United States has accused Wanzhou of deceiving four banks into making transactions to help Huawei evade American sanctions against Iran. She has denied the allegations but was arrested at the Vancouver airport in December 2018. Quickly released on bail, Wanzhou has been residing in two different mansions in Vancouver.
“China has been staging its own fake judicial process in sync with the real process in Vancouver,” said David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China. “The irony at the heart of this is the Wanzhou case will take a long time because she has a top-drawer legal team of Canadian and American lawyers that most of us can only dream of having. Meanwhile, our two guys are in a place with the lights on 24 hours a day, and no consular access because of COVID.”
Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, released a statement saying he was “deeply concerned that Canadian officials hadn’t been granted consular access to the two men since mid-January, and that Canada continues to call on China to immediately release them.”
China’s foreign ministry maintains Kovrig and Spavor are “in good health,” and are being detained “in a region that is not particularly affected by COVID-19.”