Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the 11-year prison sentence handed down by a Chinese court to businessman Michael Spavor is “absolutely unacceptable and unjust.”
A court in the northeastern city of Dandong convicted Spavor Wednesday on a charge of espionage. The verdict came nearly six months after Spavor’s one-day, closed-door trial that even Canadian diplomats were prevented from attending.
In his written statement, Trudeau condemned the “lack of transparency in the legal process, and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law.”
A statement on the court’s website said Spavor will be deported as part of his sentence but did not say when that would happen.
The United States also condemned the sentencing.
“We join our partners in condemning Beijing’s sentencing of Canadian citizen Michael Spavor, and calling on Beijing to immediately release Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, both arbitrarily detained for more than 2 ½ years. People are not bargaining chips,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted.
Spavor was arrested in December 2018 just days after Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies, in Vancouver, British Columbia, on a U.S. warrant.
The arrest of Spavor and another Canadian, former diplomat Michael Kovrig, that same month triggered accusations from Ottawa that the two men were arrested in retaliation for Meng’s arrest.
Spavor’s verdict comes a day after a Chinese court upheld a death sentence for another Canadian, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was convicted in 2018 for trafficking methamphetamine. Schellenberg was arrested in 2014 and initially sentenced to 15 years in prison, but his sentence was changed during a one-day retrial in 2019 shortly after Meng’s arrest.
Meng remains under house arrest in Vancouver as she fights the extradition warrant from the U.S. As chief financial officer of Huawei — one of the world’s largest manufacturers of smartphones — Meng is accused of lying to U.S. officials about Huawei’s business in Iran, which is under U.S. sanctions.
The U.S. has also warned other countries against using Huawei-built products, suspecting the Chinese government of installing spyware in them.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.