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The Guardian

Canadian men detained in China to face trial ‘soon’ as hopes of diplomatic deal dim

Editorial in state-run Global Times said Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor would likely stand trial in coming weeks People hold signs calling for China to release Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in Vancouver, British Columbia, on 6 March 2019. Photograph: Lindsey Wasson/Reuters Two Canadian men detained in China are likely to stand trial in the coming weeks, according to a state-backed newspaper, dimming hopes that a diplomatic deal could secure their release. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been held without bail for more than 820 days, since they were detained soon after the Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested on a US warrant in Vancouver. On Thursday, an editorial in the state-run Global Times said they would face trial “soon”, citing anonymous sources. “Kovrig was accused of having used an ordinary passport and business visa to enter China to steal sensitive information and intelligence through contacts in China since 2017, while Spavor was accused of being a key source of intelligence for Kovrig,” the paper wrote. “They are suspected of crimes endangering China’s national security, and have already been prosecuted.” In some cases, a guilty verdict in espionage cases can mean life in prison. China’s courts have a notorious reputation for high rates of conviction. Canada’s foreign ministry says it is “not aware” of any timeline for the trial of the two men. “The Canadian government remains deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig since December 2018 and continues to call for their immediate release,” a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada told the Guardian by email, adding that consular officials continue to provide services for the two men. Despite claims from China that the two were endangering national security, Canada maintains Beijing is conducting hostage diplomacy. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister, has previously said he believes the arrests were carried out in retaliation for Meng’s detention. The Huawei executive is currently fighting extradition to the US on fraud charges. Her court hearing is expected to conclude on 14 May. For two years, Canada has worked to build global support for its campaign to secure the release of the two. Last month, it signed a declaration against arbitrary detention, prompting anger from China. As its options run low the Canadian government has increasingly pinned its hopes that pressure from the US could help secure the release of the men. “Human beings are not bartering chips,” Joe Biden, the US president, told reporters last month. “We’re going to work together until we get their safe return. Canada and the United States will stand together against abuse of universal rights and democratic freedom.”

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