Diplomats from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have joined together to show their displease against the trial of former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, in the face of the authorities’ refusal to allow access to the trial in China.
The same events occurred on Friday, March 19, 2021 when diplomats and media were prevented from attending the in the trial of Michael Spavor in the northern Chinese city of Dandong.
“This is completely unacceptable, as is the lack of transparency in these court proceedings” Nickel added to Bloomberg.
According to Chinese authorities, the two Canadian citizens are accused of spying on Chinese state secrets. Canada and the United States on the contrary consider that Beijing is acting in response to the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei on an order from Washington.
“President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken have said about the cases of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, that the United States will treat these two individuals as if they were U.S. citizens,” said William Klein, chargé d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in China while accompanying the court proceeding in Beijing.
Earlier, the German Foreign Ministry reported that in Berlin “there is concern that the detention may be politically motivated.”
For his part, Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), called on Beijing to address Canada’s concerns: “NATO is based on some fundamental values: democracy, individual freedom and the rule of law. And that is why we are also following this case with such concern.”
The trial of Korvig and Spavor in China and that of Meng in Canada have strained relations between the two countries and deepened the U.S. government’s criticism of Beijing’s coercion.
However, while the West struggles for transparency, Chinese propaganda pushes for Meng’s release in Canada. In addition, Hua Chunying, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said “the cases involved state secrets, and China’s decision to hold the trial behind closed doors is beyond reproach.”
Michael Kovrig’s wrongful detention in China
Former diplomat Michael Kovrig was detained on December 10, 2018 in Beijing by Chinese authorities and arbitrarily, according to Jim Nickel, a diplomat at the Canadian Embassy in the Asian giant.
Korvig was detained without formal charges for more than a year and remains imprisoned without a conviction. The former diplomat worked for the consulting firm Crisis Group, interacting with Chinese officials, academics and analysts from multiple state institutions.
Michael Spavor, a life among communist regimes
Michael Spavor is a Canadian businessman who is on the list of the few Westerners close to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The businessman lived for a long period in South Korea and China from where he began his ties with the communist dictatorship.
Spavor played an important role in the regime’s relations with the West, along with his organization Paektu Cultural Exchange. The organization promoted culture, trade and tourism to North Korea.
Spavor’s trial was held on March 19, 2021. However, the court proceeding culminated after two hours without a final verdict and after his relatives called for his release.
The concern is heightened considering that people convicted of serious violations, as is the case with Canadian citizens, face 10 years to life imprisonment.
Pressure to release Meng Wanzhou
Meng Wanzhou was arrested by Canadian authorities at Vancouver airport in December 2018 based on an extradition warrant from Washington for bank fraud, and business dealings with Iran that violated American sanctions.
China considers the trial of Meng, Huawei’s CFO to be political and compares her case to that of Ericsson, “in a similar recent case in June 2018, Ericsson agreed to pay more than $145,000 for violating sanctions against Sudan, but no individual was involved in that case.”
The stance of the defenders of the three individuals demonstrates that the political conflict mediated by China’s coercion is far from over.
In mid-March 2021, the US State Department continued to increase restrictions and condemnations on Huawei for national security and detriment to Hong Kong’s freedom.