Michael Spavor: Canadian businessman jailed for 11 years in China on spying charges

China has sentenced a Canadian businessman to 11 years in prison after it convicted him of espionage.

Michael Spavor was arrested in 2018 alongside Canadian diplomat Michael Korvig, who is still awaiting a verdict in his case.

Spavor was sentenced “for the crime of spying and illegal provision of state secrets abroad”, a court in Dandong, northeast China, said.

He will also have 50,000 yuan (£5,580) worth of personal property and face deportation, it added.

Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping told Reuters that deportation in China generally takes place after a person has finished serving their sentence but may happen earlier for special cases.

It comes amid a diplomatic row between China and Canada over the extradition of Meng Wanzhou – a senior executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei – to the US.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the Spavor case as “absolutely unacceptable and unjust”.

He said: “The verdict for Mr Spavor 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.”

The US embassy in Beijing also condemned the cases of Spavor and Korvig, claiming they were an attempt by China to “use human beings as bargaining leverage”.

Spavor was originally detained in 2018 before being charged with espionage in June 2019.

He was given a one-day trial in March this year, but no verdict or sentence was given until Wednesday.

Korvig was also tried in March, but no date has been set for a sentencing hearing.

Canadian ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, visited him after the verdict this week, claiming he has three messages to the world: “Thank you all for your support. I am in good spirits. I want to get home.”

Diplomats from 25 countries have been congregating at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, with Mr Barton adding: “Our collective presence and voice sends a strong signal to China and the Chinese government in particular, that all the eyes of the world are watching.”

China has a criminal conviction rate of more than 99%, with trials scarcely accessible to the public or the media.

Chinese officials are making a final push to stop the US from extraditing Meng from her house arrest in Canada.

China has rejected the suggestion that Spavor and Korvig’s cases are linked to Meng’s case in Canada, but Beijing has warned of unspecified consequences unless she is released.

Meng was charged with misleading HSBC Holdings PLC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, potentially causing the bank to violate American economic sanctions against Tehran.

Meng, who has said she is innocent, faces a final decision due in the next few months.

Since her arrest at Vancouver International Airport days in 2018, four Canadians have been sentenced to death on drug charges.

This week Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was handed a death sentence after being found guilty of being an accessory to drug smuggling.

Canadian citizens Fan Wei, Ye Jianhui and Xu Weihong have been handed the same fate by Chinese courts.

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