China’s Foreign Ministry has said two Canadians held for two years in a case linked to a Huawei executive have been indicted and tried, but gave no details.
Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have been confined since December 10 2018, days after Canada detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the founder of the Chinese communications equipment giant.
China has said Kovrig and Spavor were indicted on June 19 by the Beijing prosecutor’s office on “suspicion of spying for state secrets and intelligence”.
Neither China or Canada has released specifics about their cases.
At a daily briefing on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the two had been “arrested, indicted and tried”, in what appeared to be the first public mention that they had been taken to court.
China says their cases are not connected to Meng’s detention but has consistently linked them to its demands that she be immediately released.
Canadian foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne issued a statement marking their two years of captivity, saying: “These two Canadians are an absolute priority for our government, and we will continue to work tirelessly to secure their immediate release and to stand up for them as a government and as Canadians.”
Mr Champagne continued: “I am struck by the integrity and strength of character the two have shown as they endure immense hardship that would shake anyone’s faith in humanity.”
The US is seeking Meng’s extradition from Canada on fraud charges. Her arrest severely damaged relations between Canada and China, which has also sentenced two other Canadians to death and suspended imports of canola from Canada.
Two years have passed since Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arbitrarily detained in China.
These two Canadians are and will remain an absolute priority for our gouvernement and we will continue to work tirelessly to secure their immediate release.
My statement : pic.twitter.com/OQLU1fOfPe
— François-Philippe Champagne (FPC) 🇨🇦 (@FP_Champagne) December 9, 2020
Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, is living in a luxury Vancouver home while her extradition case continues in a British Columbia court. The US accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to deceive banks and do business with Iran in violation of US sanctions.
It is not publicly known where Kovrig and Spavor are being held or under what conditions, although Canada’s ambassador to China gave evidence to a committee at Canada’s House of Commons this week that they were “robust”.
Canadian diplomats had been denied all access to the two men from January to October because of coronavirus precautions cited by the Chinese side. On-site visits were banned and not even virtual visits were permitted.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has described China’s approach as coercive diplomacy, spoke last month with US President-elect Joe Biden about the case of the two men and said he expects Mr Biden to be a good partner in persuading Beijing to release them.