The trial of the second Canadian detained in China more than two years ago on charges of “espionage” began on Monday in Beijing, as Canada condemned his “arbitrary” detention in response to the arrest of a Huawei executive in Vancouver.
The trial of former diplomat Michael Kovrig, 49, took place three days after the trial of his compatriot Michael Spavor in Dandong (Northeast China), which ended in just over two hours without a verdict.
The two men, who face life in prison, were detained in December 2018, shortly after the arrest of the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, in Canada, at the request of the United States.
Ottawa accuses Beijing of arresting its citizens in retaliation. China denies this.
As in Michael Spavor’s trial on Friday, representatives of the Canadian embassy in China were denied access.
An official at Intermediate People’s Court No. 2 in Beijing, where Michael Covrig is being tried, told the press that there could be no audience because it was a “national security” issue.
– 26 countries represented –
“We are very concerned about the denial of access and the lack of transparency in the entire judicial process,” said Chargé d’Affairs to the Canadian Embassy, Jim Nickell, after being denied access to the court shortly after 9:00 am (01:00 GMT). The scheduled time for the start of the trial.
But she welcomed the presence of diplomats from 26 countries, including from Germany, the United States, France and the United Kingdom.
These diplomats stood in front of the photographers in front of the building, before applauding Nickel, who thanked them for their support for Canada.
The Canadian diplomat believes the trial will continue into the afternoon.
The arrest of Meng Wanzhou, daughter of Huawei’s founder, on December 1, 2018, has led to an unprecedented deterioration in Sino-Canadian relations.
On Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the arrest of his citizens as “totally unacceptable”.
He also expressed his hope that the issue would be addressed in Alaska last Thursday and Friday during the first high-level meeting between senior Chinese and US officials chaired by Joe Biden.
The Wall Street Journal reported in December that Huawei was trying to reach an agreement with the US government that would allow Ming Wanzhou to return to China.
The US judge accuses her of evading US sanctions against Iran.
It is not known exactly what the Canadians were accused of.
In March 2019, the official Xinhua News Agency reported that Covrig, who was working for the Crisis Group Association, was accused of espionage and stealing state secrets and that Spavor was one of his main sources of information.
The latter had been in contact from China with North Korea, the country he had organized trips to, especially the personalities that leader Kim Jong Un had received.
Former Canadian ambassador to China Jay San Jacques estimates that the two sentences will be known this week.
“China is not even trying to make it look like these are real trials: it does not pass evidence to the defense and the judge does not take time to examine it,” he told AFP.
The former ambassador denounced that “this confirms that the judicial process is at the request of the Communist Party and is related to political trials.”
“The message to the United States is clear: If you want the Canadians to help, get Meng Wanzhou back to China quickly.”
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