Two Canadians detained by Beijing more than two years ago on suspicion of espionage are to go before Chinese courts this week, the Canadian government said on Wednesday.
This will further raise diplomatic tensions between Ottawa and Beijing.
China arrested the men in December 2018 shortly after Canadian police detained Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a US warrant. She is under house arrest in Vancouver as she fights extradition to the US.
Beijing has always insisted the detentions are not linked to Meng’s arrest.
“Our embassy in Beijing has been notified that court hearings for Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are scheduled to take place on March 19 and March 22, respectively,” Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement.
“We believe these detentions are arbitrary, and remain deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding these proceedings.”
Global Affairs Canada is the government department that manages Canada’s diplomatic relations, and its spokesman Jason Kung told Reuters that Kovrig’s hearing would take place in Beijing and Spavor’s hearing would be held in Dandong, a city in the northeastern Liaoning province.
The two men face spying charges and it is unclear how long the process may take, but “there will be a verdict”, a Canadian government source said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has sought support from US President Joe Biden in ensuring the speedy release of the men.
“Human beings are not bartering chips,” Biden said after speaking with Trudeau by video link in February. “We’re going to work together until we get their safe return.”