2 Detained Canadians Face Death Penalty As China Brings Espionage Charges

Just hours after President Trump signed an executive order blacklisting Huawei and 70 affiliates from doing business in the US, Chinese authorities announced that a Canadian businessman and a former Canadian diplomat have been formally charged with spying – a crime that could carry a death sentence in China.

Michael Spavor, a businessman who organized trips to North Korea for foreigners, and Michael Kovrig, a consultant and former diplomat, were detained in December and held as Chinese police carried out an investigation into charges relating to “state secrets”. Five months later, the two men have finally been formally charged, according to CBC.

Kovrig

Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig

Many suspect that the arrests of the two men was retaliation against Ottawa For the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver late last year  at the behest of federal prosecutors in New York, who are seeking to extradite her over allegations that she misled banks about Huawei’s relationship with a sanctions-violating subsidiary. Canadian diplomats have said there’s ‘no doubt’ the detentions of the two men were retaliation for Meng, who was released on $10 million bail in December and must wear an ankle monitoring bracelet.

The decision – which comes amid an unprecedented US crackdown on Huawei and the most tense period of negotiations since the trade-war truce was declared in December – will almost certainly escalate tensions between the US, Ottawa and Canada.

Chinese officials said they hoped Canada would refrain from criticizing their legal system.

“According to Chinese prosecutors’ approval, Michael Kovrig, due to being suspected of crimes of gathering state secrets and intelligence for foreign (forces), and Michael Spavor, for being suspected of crimes of stealing and illegally providing state secrets for foreign (forces), have in recent days been approved for arrest according to law,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a daily news briefing.

“We always act in accordance with the law, and we hope that Canada will not make irresponsible remarks on China’s legal construction and judicial handling,” Geng said at a regularly scheduled news conference.

The two men have been held in undisclosed detention facilities for months and have been denied access to lawyers, though they have been allowed visits from Canadian consular officials.