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Chinese Court Sentences Canadian Businessman to 11 Years In Prison For Spying

Chinese Court Sentences Canadian Businessman to 11 Years In Prison For Spying

A Chinese court has sentenced a Canadian businessman to 11 years in prison for espionage, more than two years after he was first detained.

Michael Spavor, a Beijing-based businessman who regularly traveled to North Korea, was sentenced after being found guilty of spying and illegally providing state secrets to foreign countries, the Dandong Intermediate People’s Court said in a statement Wednesday. The court said Spavor would also be deported, without specifying whether it was before or after he served his prison sentence.

FILE – In this file image made from a March 2, 2017, video, Michael Spavor, director of Paektu Cultural Exchange, talks during a Skype interview in Yanji, China. A Canadian entrepreneur who was charged with spying after his government arrested an executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei faces a possible verdict Wednesday, August 11, 2021 as Beijing steps up pressure on Canada ahead of a court ruling on whether to hand over the executive to face U.S. criminal charges. (AP Photo/File)

Spavor was detained in December 2018 alongside Canadian Michael Kovrig on espionage charges. The two men were detained following the arrest in Vancouver, Canada, of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei, over allegations the company violated United States sanctions on Iran. Meng, whose extradition hearing is now in its final stages, has been held under house arrest in Vancouver since 2018.

Chinese officials have not disclosed any evidence against Spavor or Kovrig, or information relating to their trials, which were held behind closed doors in March. Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton said his government condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the sentence handed down to Spavor, a sentiment echoed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who denounced Spavor’s sentencing Wednesday as “absolutely unacceptable and unjust,” saying in a statement Canada’s top priority is securing the release of the two men.

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Chinese courts have a conviction rate of more than 99% and observers say the release of Spavor and Kovrig could now rest on a diplomatic solution, potentially after a face-saving conviction and sentence of time served.

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