Chinese court hands 11-year sentence to Canadian businessman

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A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian businessman to 11 years in prison on Wednesday.

Michael Spavor is one of several detained Canadians in China whose cases are thought to be tied to Ottawa’s arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer.

China has rejected the connections.

Spavor was found guilty of espionage and obtaining state secrets by a court in the north-eastern Chinese city of Dandong and sentenced on Wednesday.

He was taken into custody in December 2018 shortly after Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, the finance chief of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.

“China’s conviction and sentencing of Michael Spavor is absolutely unacceptable and unjust,” Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.

“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.”

“For Mr. Spavor, as well as for Michael Kovrig who has also been arbitrarily detained, our top priority remains securing their immediate release. We will continue working around the clock to bring them home as soon as possible,” Trudeau added.

Kovrig, a Canadian former diplomat, was detained at around the same time as Spavor, leading to accusations Beijing was engaging in “hostage diplomacy.”

The daughter of the Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei is accused of bank fraud in the United States in connection with violating sanctions against Iran.

A trial to determine whether she should be extradited to the US is in its final stages in Canada.

Kovrig is also facing trial on espionage charges but no verdict has been reached against him yet.

Relations between Beijing and Ottawa have been strained since Meng’s arrest. At least three Canadian drug smugglers have since been sentenced to death.

On Tuesday, an appeals court upheld a death sentence handed to Canadian drug smuggler Robert Lloyd Schellenberg. He had initially received a long prison sentence, but shortly after Meng’s arrest it was changed to a death sentence.

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