BEIJING | in A decision that will tender relations between China and Canada: Beijing formally accused of spying two Canadians detained in 2018, a case widely seen by Ottawa as a retaliation after the arrest of a part of Huawei at the request of Washington.
Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat previously stationed in Beijing, as well as the consultant and businessman Michael Spavor, a specialist on North Korea, have been arrested in China in December 2018 and have since been incarcerated.
Their arrest coincided with that, a few days earlier in Canada, at the request of the american legal system, the financial director of the chinese giant telecom Huawei Meng Wanzhou.
Ms. Meng, the daughter of the founder of Huawei, is accused by Washington of having bypassed u.s. sanctions against Iran. It now risks extradition to the United States.
His arrest has opened a diplomatic crisis without precedent between Ottawa and Beijing.
Friday, the public Prosecutor announced in two separate releases charges formal of the two Canadians.
Michael Kovrig is “suspected of having gathered State secrets and intelligence” to the stranger.
A diplomat on sabbatical, he was working at the time of his arrest for the research institute International Crisis Group (ICG).
Michael Spavor is suspected of having passed State secrets”.
These charges can bring a very heavy penalty.
A confession under duress?
Beijing has never explicitly made the link between the arrest of two Canadians and Meng Wanzhou, but has several times hinted that the release of the responsible of Huawei was a condition sine qua non for an improvement of its relations with Ottawa.
The prime minister of canada Justin Trudeau has estimated last month that China “does not include” the independence of the canadian judicial system is in persistent pressure on the government to secure the release of its national.
For Ryan Mitchell, a professor of law at the chinese University of Hong Kong, the 18-month detention of Canadians are “probably intended to force (…) to make a confession”.
Last month, the canadian court ruled for the continuation of the procedure for the leader of Huawei, clenching a little more with the chinese authorities, who seemed to believe in his release.
Beijing was then called the Canadian “do not continue on the wrong path”.
In the West, the investigation of MESSRS. Kvorig and Spavor is widely perceived as a measure of retaliation, which China formally denies.
The country promises to be “a rule of law” – even if the justice remains under the influence of the chinese communist Party (CCP).
And cases involving national security are most often treated with a large opacity.
A spokesman for china’s public diplomacy, Zhao Lijian, called Friday of “particularly serious” the allegations made against the two Canadians. “The facts are clear and sufficient evidence”, he assured.
Penalty too “lenient”
According to the chinese lawyer, Li Fangping, a specialist in Human rights, MESSRS. Kovrig and Spavor could switch to an in-camera trial and have a lawyer appointed ex officio.
“In normal circumstances, a verdict is expected to take six months,” said Mr Li to the AFP.
On the background of the diplomatic crisis between Beijing and Ottawa, the case of another Canadian, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was arrested in 2014 for drug trafficking, had suddenly resurfaced last year.
The man had been sentenced in first instance to 15 years in prison. But the justice, deeming the penalty too “lenient”, has been sentenced to death.
In spite of a conviction in Canada for drug trafficking, Mr. Schellenberg has always proclaimed his innocence.
Last year, China has also suspended a few months its imports of meat of canada, arguing that the discovery of false export certificates.
A producer of canadian pork was also found in the collimator, after the discovery, according to the chinese authorities, of ractopamine in shipments.
This doping product, authorized in Canada, is banned in China.
Beijing had also blocked imports of the two major canadian producers of rapeseed.