Newspaper: China to soon try 2 Canadians on spying charges

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FILE - In this file image made from March 28, 2018, video, Michael Kovrig, an adviser with the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based non-governmental organization, speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. A Communist Party newspaper says China will soon begin trials for two Canadians, Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were arrested in December 2018 in apparent retaliation for Canadas detention of a senior executive for Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies. (AP Photo, File)

BEIJING – A Communist Party newspaper says China will soon begin trials for two Canadians who were arrested two years ago in apparent retaliation for Canada’s detention of a senior executive for Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies.

The Global Times said Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor “will soon be tried" after they were charged with “crimes undermining China’s national security” in June 2020.

Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Spavor, an entrepreneur, were arrested in December 2018, days after Meng Wanzhou was detained at Vancouver airport. The U.S. wants her extradited to face fraud charges.

China has revealed few details of the charges against the two, and Canadian diplomats allowed occasional visits have said little other than to call for them to be released.

The Global Times said Kovrig was “accused of having used an ordinary passport and business visa to enter China to steal sensitive information and intelligence through contacts in China since 2017, while Spavor was accused of being a key source of intelligence for Kovrig.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said he had no additional details, but that China had “fully protected all the legal rights of the people concerned," including allowing Canadian diplomats to visit the two.

In Canada, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Christelle Chartrand said it was not aware of any set timeframe for the trials.

“The Canadian government remains deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig since December 2018 and continues to call for their immediate release," she said in a statement. “To date, Global Affairs Canada has not been notified of court hearings for Mr. Kovrig or Mr. Spavor.”