U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has slammed China’s “practice of arbitrarily detaining individuals to exercise leverage over foreign governments” and called it “completely unacceptable.” His comments come after Beijing sentenced Canadian citizen Michael Spavor. The top official called the detention “politically motivated.”
Canadian businessman Michael Spavor has been detained in China since 2018. He was arrested for espionage alongside fellow Canadian ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig. Earlier this week, he was sentenced in China to 11 years in prison.
A Chinese court this week sentenced Spavor to 11 years in prison for spying. The ruling came some 24 hours after a fellow citizen, Michael Kovrig, convicted of drug trafficking had his death sentence upheld. The Canadian government has condemned the move. The top U.S. diplomat in Beijing called China’s actions a “blatant attempt to use human beings as bargaining leverage.”
Spavor and Kovrig had been detained since 2018, shortly after Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co., at the request of the U.S. The arrests of Canadian nationals have widely been viewed as retaliation for Meng’s arrest. She continues to fight her extradition to the U.S. while remaining in her house in Vancouver.
Blinken is not the only one who condemned the sentencing. Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton said his government condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the sentence handed down to Spavor.
“I don’t think it’s a coincident that things are happening right now while events are going on in Vancouver,” Barton said, adding that he was hopeful, still, because there is an opportunity for an appeal.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the conviction “unacceptable and unjust” because the legal process was not transparent, a minimum standard for trials that need to be satisfied based on international law.
Kovrig, who faces the same charges as Spavor, went to trial in March, but no verdict has been announced yet.
Another Canadian citizen was also convicted for drug trafficking and a death sentence was imposed. The person was identified as Robert Lloyd Schellenberg and was initially sentenced to 15 years in jail. Schellenberg appealed this prison term, but instead of the years being reduced, the judges in China ruled that the previous sentence was too light and imposed the death sentence. They claimed that there was sufficient evidence for the sentence. However, it is believed that the death penalty was upheld because of Wanzhou’s arrest in Canada.