Chinese court convicts Canadian Michael Spavor on charge of espionage

A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian tour organiser to 11 years in prison for spying, a ruling that appeared to be timed to show Beijing’s anger over extradition proceedings in Vancouver against Huawei Technologies Co.’s chief financial officer.
In this file image made from a March 2, 2017 video, Michael Spavor, director of Paektu Cultural Exchange, talks during a Skype interview in Yanji, China. (AP)
In this file image made from a March 2, 2017 video, Michael Spavor, director of Paektu Cultural Exchange, talks during a Skype interview in Yanji, China. (AP)
Updated on Aug 11, 2021 09:09 AM IST
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Bloomberg |

A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian tour organiser to 11 years in prison for spying, a ruling that appeared to be timed to show Beijing’s anger over extradition proceedings in Vancouver against Huawei Technologies Co.’s chief financial officer.

Michael Spavor, who organised tours to North Korea, was sentenced after being found guilty of stealing and illegally providing state secrets to other countries, the Dandong Intermediate People’s Court said in a statement Wednesday. Spavor had waited for the verdict for five months since a two-hour trial held behind closed doors in March.

The court said Spavor would also be deported, without specifying whether it was before or after he served his sentence.

The decision was part of a flurry of court proceedings on both sides of this Pacific this week, as Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou made a final push in Vancouver to fight U.S.-led extradition efforts. Spavor is among a handful of Canadians in China facing stiff punishments in the wake of Meng’s December 2018 arrest, which the Communist Party views as a politically motivated attack on one of its chief technology champions.

On Tuesday, China upheld a death sentence for Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who had seen his punishment for drug trafficking increased to death on appeal in January 2019. Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau condemned the decision to reject Schellenberg’s latest appeal and urged Chinese authorities to grant him clemency.

Canadian diplomats said they viewed the decisions as politically driven. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that things are happening right now while events are going on in Vancouver,” Canadian Ambassador Dominic Barton told reporters Tuesday in China.

Spavor was detained along with Michael Kovrig -- a Hong Kong-based analyst at the International Crisis Group and former Canadian diplomat -- days after Meng’s arrest and has been jailed ever since. The Canadian side hasn’t received any indication on the timing of Kovrig’s verdict, according to Barton.

People convicted of serious violations of the section of law cited by Chinese authorities face between 10 years and life in prison.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021