A Chinese court has convicted a Beijing-based Canadian businessman of espionage and sentenced him to 11 years in prison after his second trial, reports the BBC.
At Michael Spavor’s first trial in March, Canadian diplomats including the charge d’affaires to China were denied entry to the court. That trial ended in no verdict.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned his conviction as “absolutely unacceptable and unjust”.
The Dandong court said in a statement published on Wednesday: “For the crime of spying and illegal provision of state secrets abroad [Spavor] has been sentenced to 11 years in jail, confiscation of 50,000 yuan (US$7715) worth of personal property and deportation.”
China customarily deports foreigners once they have completed their sentence.
Trudeau released a statement saying: “The verdict comes after more than two-and-a-half years of arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process, and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law.”
Spavor and Canadian ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig have been in custody since 2018. Kovrig faced the same charges and was tried in March, with no verdict yet announced.
China has been accused of treating both Spavor and Kovrig as political bargaining chips, to be used in “hostage diplomacy” as their arrests followed quickly after the detention at Vancouver International Airport of Chinese citizen Meng Wanzhou in December 2018 on a US warrant.
Meng, chief financial officer for Huawei, is currently under house arrest in Vancouver fighting extradition to the US, where she is accused of fraud and misrepresenting the tech giant’s business dealings in Iran.
The Canadian and Chinese governments are engaged in an extradition battle over Meng, and Spavor was first arrested in 2018, just days after Meng and later charged with espionage.
Trudeau called the closed-door proceedings “completely unacceptable”.
Spavor is a founding member of the Paektu Cultural Exchange, an organisation which facilitates international business and cultural ties with North Korea.
Canadian ambassador to China Dominic Barton said he condemned the conviction but noted that there is the opportunity for an appeal.