The trials of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor will be beginning in China in the next few days.
According to Canadian Embassy in Beijing, Chinese prosecutors will begin their opening hearing in the trial of Spavor on Friday, with Kovrig’s first hearing scheduled for Monday. Both men face charges of stealing unspecified Chinese government secrets.
“The arbitrary detention of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor is a top priority for the Government of Canada and we continue to work tirelessly to secure their immediate release,” Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement.
“We believe these detentions are arbitrary, and remain deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding these proceedings.”
Chinese state-owned media reported last week that the trials of the two Michaels were beginning “soon.” The Canadian government appears to have not been officially notified until the day before Spavor’s trial.
The two Michaels were arrested in 2018 in a move which is widely believed to have been retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on an U.S. warrant. Spavor and Kovrig’s trials were postponed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The wife of Michael Kovrig Vina Nadjibulla said in an interview the limited window to see her husband realised through diplomacy is closing.
“This is, of course, a very difficult development. But as difficult as it is I cannot imagine what it’s like for Michael who is having to deal with this in isolation and alone and has been for 830 days,” she said in an interview.
“What I am focused on now is that we must remain determined and work for their freedom. The proceedings in China are still going ahead and this is a stark reminder. We are simply running out of time.”
The Chinese legal system is notoriously biased against opponents of the Communist Party. In 2019, the conviction rate in China stood at 99.9%.