The United States joined Canada in condemning China’s 11-year sentence against a Canadian man widely viewed as being detained in retaliation for Canada assisting the DOJ with extraditing a top Huawei official.
Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested by Canadian authorities in December 2018 at the request of the United States, indicted in the Eastern District of New York in January 2019, and charged with bank fraud and wire fraud as well as conspiracy to commit both.
Shortly thereafter, Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arrested and have been held ever since and were secretly tried and convicted in China in March.
Spavor, who was handed the 11-year-sentence, China announced Wednesday, headed a business in China that helped promote visits to North Korea. Kovrig is a former Canadian diplomat who had worked for Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and had been working in China as an adviser on relations between China and North Korea for the International Crisis Group.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the secretive Chinese court’s ruling.
“We stand with the international community in calling for the People’s Republic of China to release, immediately and unconditionally, Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. We continue to condemn these arbitrary detentions as well as the sentence imposed against Mr. Spavor on August 10,” Blinken said Wednesday. “Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig have not received the minimal procedural protections during their more than two-and-a-half-year arbitrary detention, and we stand with more than 60 countries who endorsed the recent Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations. In my discussions with PRC officials, I have raised several cases of both U.S. and Canadian citizens subject to arbitrary detentions and exit bans in China, and I strongly support the immediate and unconditional release of all those whom the People’s Republic of China has arbitrarily detained. The practice of arbitrarily detaining individuals to exercise leverage over foreign governments is completely unacceptable. People should never be used as bargaining chips.”
Blinken added: “The United States also remains deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding these legal proceedings and joins Canada in calling for full consular access to Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the China-Canada Consular Agreement. We call upon PRC authorities to grant the requests of Canadian officials and other foreign diplomats to attend their proceedings.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Spavor’s sentencing was “absolutely unacceptable and unjust.”
The Intermediate People’s Court of Dandong City released a vague statement, saying Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison and deportation, although it did not clarify if he would be deported before or after his sentence.
Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Chinese state-run Global Times, attacked the Canadian leader, saying, “Trudeau, governor of U.S. State of Canada, tried to interfere in China’s judicial system. He clearly knows that China despises his statement.”
Hu also criticized Blinken, tweeting: “Stop meddling in China’s judicial system. Regarding arbitrary detention, the U.S. is better at it than any other country. China is not Canada which succumbs to America’s overbearing power.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and the ranking member on House Foreign Affairs Committee, said China’s actions were “part of a plot to free a CCP-connected criminal” and that “the CCP’s hostage diplomacy is the behavior of a rogue state, not a global leader.”
China has repeatedly linked its detention of the two Michaels to Canada’s extradition efforts related to the Huawei prosecution.
Meng is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder and CEO, who has consistently denied that Huawei has done anything wrong. The Justice Department’s 13-count indictment in the Brooklyn court said Huawei itself, as well as two affiliates, Huawei USA and Skycom, were also charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, and dodging sanctions against Iran.
Meng was released on $8 million bail in early January 2019 and has been living in a mansion her family owns in Vancouver. She is allowed to travel around the city with a GPS monitor on her ankle while awaiting the result of her extradition proceedings, which are still tied up in Canadian court.