FILE - In this file image made from a March 2, 2017, video, Michael Spavor, director of Paektu Cultural Exchange, talks during a Skype interview in Yanji, China. The Canadian government says China will begin trials in March 2021 for two Canadians, Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were arrested in 2019 in apparent retaliation for Canada’s detention of a senior executive for Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies. (AP Photo/File)

FILE - In this file image made from a March 2, 2017, video, Michael Spavor, director of Paektu Cultural Exchange, talks during a Skype interview in Yanji, China. The Canadian government says China will begin trials in March 2021 for two Canadians, Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were arrested in 2019 in apparent retaliation for Canada’s detention of a senior executive for Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies. (AP Photo/File)

Before Canadians are put on trial, China says it follows law

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged ‘absolute solidarity’ with Canada

BEIJING — China said it has followed the law and protected the legal rights of two Canadians due to go on trial Friday in a case Canada believes is a pressure tactic over its detention of an executive at Chinese telecommunication’s giant Huawei.

Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, were arrested in December 2018, days after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver, British Columbia. The U.S. wants her extradited to face fraud charges related to her company’s dealings with Iran.

Kovrig and Spavor face spying accusations, and Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said the Canadian Embassy in Beijing has been notified that court hearings for the two are scheduled to take place Friday and Monday.

“China’s judicial organs handle the cases in accordance with law and fully protect all the legal rights of the persons involved,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing Thursday.

China has demanded Meng’s immediate and unconditional release, saying the U.S. engineered her detention as part of a drive to contain China’s growing rise. Canadian authorities say Kavrig and Spavor were arbitrarily arrested to put pressure on Ottawa and say they should be released without charge.

Meng, the daughter of the founder of Huawei, remains free on bail in Canada while her case winds its way through the courts. Little information has been released about the charges against Kovrig and Spavor, or their conditions in detention, although the ruling Communist Party newspaper Global Times this week said the pair were allegedly part of a conspiracy to steal Chinese state secrets.

Meng’s arrest enraged Beijing, which has also retaliated by restricting various Canadian exports, including canola oil seed, and handed death sentences to another four Canadians convicted of drug smuggling.

The legal tussle is expected to be raised at a meeting later Thursday in Alaska between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and top Chinese diplomats. Blinken has pledged “absolute solidarity” with Canada in calling for Kovrig and Spavor to be freed.

Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, called the upcoming trials a “very worrisome development.”

“The sentence will be dictated by the Communist Party of China. It becomes a lot more complicated to extract them from China,” Saint-Jacques said.

By The Associated Press

China

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