Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- China has begun the trial of a second Canadian arrested in 2018 shortly after Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver.

The trial of former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who is accused of espionage, began two days after another Canadian, entrepreneur Michael Spavor, also arrested in 2018, went on trial.

The Beijing police have sealed off the courthouse denying entry to Canadian diplomats. China officially accused Kovrig and Spavor of espionage in June 2020.

The Canadian Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires, Jim Nickel, told journalists that the trial has begun and that diplomats are forbidden from entering the courthouse. “We are deeply concerned that the access to the court has been restricted and that the trial lacks any transparency,” Nickel said.

A court official explained to journalists that access to the court has been restricted because it is a case pertaining to national security.

Canadian diplomats were also unable to attend Spavor’s trial which took place in the northern Chinese city of Dandong. The trial lasted less than three hours but a verdict has not yet been announced.

On 1 December 2018, daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou was detained at Vancouver International Airport after a request by US authorities. The US issued an extradition request on the grounds of Meng circumventing US sanctions against Iran. Her detainment in Canada took place nine days before the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor in China.

Former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques told the news agency AFP that he expects Kovrig’s trial to be very short. “The message sent to the US is clear ­– if you want to help these Canadians, make sure that Meng is returned to China as soon as possible,” he said.

Both Canadians may face a life sentence, or even the death penalty, if they are found guilty of “spying for foreign nations” and “providing state secrets” to them.

After her detainment, Meng was released on bail and now resides in her home in Vancouver under house arrest. It is expected that the US extradition request will be fully reviewed by May if appeals do not drag the process out.

The US wants to place Meng on trial for fraud, circumvention of the sanctions imposed against Iran and providing false information to US banks. Her lawyers deny the accusations. If Meng is found guilty by the court, she could face more than 30 years in jail.

Two weeks after Meng’s detention in Vancouver, President Trump was asked if he would intervene in the case if he thought it would bring about a trade deal with China. He replied “I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary”.

Meng’s lawyers say the U.S. isn’t interested in justice. “The president and his administration have no real interest in the merits of the criminal proceeding ... but are intent on using her case as a bargaining chip in a trade dispute,” the court filings say.

The Chinese government clearly takes the view that Canada should be punished for acting as what they regard as US stooges in a judicial kidnapping.

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