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Michael Spavor: Canadian sentenced to 11 years in prison in China for espionage

A court in China has found a Canadian businessperson guilty of espionage and sentenced him to 11 years in prison.

Michael Spavor has been in detention since 2018 after he was arrested along with former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovich.

The sentence will test the strained relationship between the Canadian and Chinese governments.

It comes at a time when a battle is raging in Canada over the extradition of Meng Wanzhou, an executive with Chinese tech giant Huawei.

Critics have accused China of treating Spavor and Kovrich as political bargaining chips as part of so-called “hostage diplomacy”.

This was announced by the court in Dandong in a statement released on Wednesday. For espionage and illegally passing state secrets to foreign countries, [Spavor] was sentenced to 11 years in prison, confiscation of personal property worth 50,000 yuan ($7,715: £5,578) and deportation.”

The statement did not specify when the deportation would take place, but China generally does not deport convicted foreigners until they have served their sentences.

Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton said on Wednesday he “condemns” the conviction.

“There is a possibility of appeal,” he told reporters outside the courtroom, according to AFP.

Court case behind closed doors

Spavor was first arrested in 2018, just days after Ms. Meng’s arrest, and subsequently charged with espionage. His first trial, held in March, ended without a verdict.

Canadian diplomats, including ambassadors to China, were subsequently denied access to the courtroom. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the closed-door trial “totally unacceptable”.

Spavor is a founding member of the Whitehead Cultural Exchange, which promotes international business and cultural relations with North Korea.

Michael Kovrig, who faces the same charges, was also tried in March, but a verdict has not yet been announced.

Canadians lose appeal against death sentence in China

Final arguments in fight to extradite Meng Wanzhou

Another Canadian citizen lost an appeal against her death sentence for drug smuggling in China on Tuesday.

The court upheld the sentence against Robert Lloyd Schellenberg because the evidence against him was “sufficient”.

Schellenberg was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison, but a few days later Canada arrested Meng on a US extradition warrant.

China then threatened unspecified consequences if Meng was not released.

Schellenberg then appealed his 15-year sentence, but instead of commuting it, the judge ruled that his previous sentence had been too lenient and sentenced him to death.

At his hearing, the judge said there was evidence of his more serious involvement in international drug smuggling.

Schellenberg’s lawyer, Zhang Dongshuo, told Reuters at the time that the sentence should not have been increased because no new evidence had been presented at the trial.

Barton said it was “no coincidence” that Schellenberg’s sentence came at a time when Ms Meng’s extradition case was underway.

Meng’s court hearing marked the culmination of two and a half years of litigation.

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