China court sentences Canadian Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison for spying

Michael Spavor (right, on screen) was detained in 2018 along with compatriot Michael Kovrig. - Reuters

BEIJING (The Straits Times/ANN): A Canadian businessman charged with spying after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou has been sentenced to 11 years in prison, a day after another Canadian’s death sentence was upheld.

Michael Spavor, who has been under arrest since Dec 2018, was handed the jail sentence not in a courtroom but inside a detention centre in Dandong city in north-east Liaoning province on Wednesday (Aug 11) morning.

A day earlier, another Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, had his death sentence for drug trafficking upheld by a court in Shenyang city, also in Liaoning.

Spavor, whose hearing had taken place behind closed doors in March, was found guilty by the Dandong Intermediate People’s Court of stealing and supplying state secrets to other countries.

In a statement, the court also said it had confiscated Spavor’s personal assets worth 50,000 yuan (S$10,473) and that he would be deported.

Spavor, who organised tours to North Korea, was arrested at the same time as former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, who has also been accused of spying. The timing of his verdict is still not known.

Canada insists that the arrests and charges were politically motivated, after Meng was detained in Vancouver where she faces extradition to the United States for fraud. She returned to court on Aug 5 for what would be the final stage of her hearing.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that things are happening right now while events are going on in Vancouver,” Canadian ambassador Dominic Barton told reporters on Tuesday in Shenyang.

Ambassadors from the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and senior diplomats from 25 mostly European countries had gathered at the Canadian embassy in Beijing on Wednesday morning to await the verdict on Spavor.

He has 10 days to appeal his sentence. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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