China court convicts Canadian to 11 years in prison in espionage case
BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese court convicted Canadian businessman Michael Spavor of espionage on Wednesday and sentenced him to 11 years in prison, in a case seen in Ottawa and Washington as part of a wider diplomatic spat with Beijing.
His sentencing comes as lawyers in Canada representing the chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei make a final push to convince a court there not to extradite him to the United States.
The Dandong Intermediate Court also said 50,000 yuan of Spavor‘s personal assets will be confiscated and he will be deported, although it was not clear when. Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping told Reuters that deportation generally takes place after the person has finished serving the sentence but may happen earlier for special cases.
China detained Spavor in December 2018, days after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver International Airport on a warrant from the United States.
He was charged with espionage in June 2019. The Dandong court concluded a one-day trial in March and waited till Wednesday to announce the verdict.
Spavor‘s family said in March the charges against him are vague and have not been made public, and that he has had “very limited access and interaction with his retained Chinese defense counsel”.
Separately, another Canadian, former diplomat Michael Kovrig, was also detained in China in late 2018 days after Meng’s arrest and charged with espionage. His trial concluded in March with the verdict to be announced at an unspecified date.
China has a conviction rate of well over 99%, and public and media access to trials in sensitive cases is typically limited.
Since Meng’s arrest, China has sentenced four Canadians to death over drug charges. They are Robert Schellenberg, Fan Wei, Ye Jianhui and Xu Weihong.
China has rejected the suggestion that the cases of the Canadians in China are linked to Meng’s case in Canada though Beijing has warned of unspecified consequences unless Meng was released.
Meng was charged with misleading HSBC Holdings PLC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, potentially causing the bank to violate American economic sanctions against Tehran.
Meng, who has said she is innocent, has been fighting her extradition from under house arrest in Vancouver.
Her extradition hearings in Canada are currently in their last few weeks ahead of a ruling from the judge, expected sometime in the next few months, before Canada’s justice minister makes a final decision on whether to extradite her.