The Chinese government has indicated that it will soon start with two Canadian men detained in China for more than two years on vague charges of espionage, which increases a criminal campaign against Canada.
China plans to continue with the hearings on Friday and Monday, Canadian officials said, despite global pressure to release the two men, Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a business consultant, who largely kept in isolation since they were detained in 2018.
The prosecution of the two men is widely seen as retaliation for Canada’s decision in 2018 to arrest Meng Wanzhou, a general manager of Chinese technology giant Huawei, at the request of the United States. The start of the trials coincides with the first meeting of senior US and Chinese officials since President Biden took office in January, amid tensions over technology, defense and other issues.
Here’s what you can expect.
Politics will hang over the hearings.
Mr. Kovrig and mr. Spavor was caught up in a broader geopolitical struggle involving China, Canada and the United States.
China has adopted increasingly aggressive foreign policy in recent years, and experts believe the detention of the two Canadians is part of a campaign by Beijing to show that it will not give in to demands from Western countries.
Officials in Canada and the United States have accused China of considering the two Canadians as a bargaining panel for the release of Ms. Meng, the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei and one of China’s leading businessmen, to win.
“We believe the detention is arbitrary and remains deeply concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding these proceedings,” Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement on Wednesday.
Me. Meng was arrested on fraudulent charges but was granted bail and lives in a mansion in Vancouver.
Chinese officials have repeatedly asked Canada to release Ms Meng. China described its arrest as an attempt by the United States to target China’s most successful companies and halt its scientific and technological advances.
“The Chinese judiciary handles cases independently of the law and fully protects the legal rights of those involved,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said in a regular newsletter in Beijing on Thursday. He did not comment on the impending hearings.
The proceedings are likely to be shrouded in secrecy.
China maintains one of the most opaque legal systems in the world. Courts are controlled by the ruling Communist Party, and convictions in high-profile cases are almost certain, especially those relating to national security.
The hearings of Mr. Kovrig and mr. Spavor is likely to be shrouded in mystery, with limited opportunities to investigate or refute evidence of the two men. The proceedings are likely to be closed to the public and the news media.
Mr. Spavor’s family said in a statement on Thursday that Mr. Spavor had ‘very limited access’ to defense attorneys during his time in detention.
“The specific charges against Michael are vague and have not been made public,” he said. Spavor’s family said. “He liked to live and work in China and would never have done anything to offend the interests of China or the Chinese people. We stand by Michael and maintain his innocence in this difficult situation. ”
Mr. Kovrig and Spavor are likely to be convicted, and experts believe they could face harsh sentences, given the serious charges against them.
“No one should doubt that this is a political trial in both cases,” said Donald Clarke, a specialist in Chinese law at George Washington University. “If the merits of the cases had anything to do with it, we would not see them go into an absolute closing step in this way.”
Some are looking to the United States to solve the problem.
The issue of me. Mix and the ‘two Michaels’, as they are known in Canada, are likely to come up during the meetings between US and Chinese officials that begin in Alaska on Thursday, experts say, although a short-term breakthrough is unlikely. .
Mr. Biden called for the release of the Canadian, saying that “people do not exchange a chip.” But his administration has not indicated exactly how it can handle the problem.
Jerome A. Cohen, a law professor at New York University who specializes in Chinese law, said the hearings could pave the way for an agreement to release Mr. Kovrig and mr. To ensure spavor.
“The FRC will release them more after affirming its judicial sovereignty by convicting them,” Cohen said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
Friends and family members of Mr. Kovrig and mr. Spavor said it was important for Canada and the United States to take action to ensure the release of the two men.
“This is a serious reminder that real lives are at stake and that if we, Canada and the USA, do not intervene to ensure their freedom, they will remain in great danger,” he said. Vina Nadjibulla, the wife of mr. Kovrig said in a telephone interview. “This is the moment. We have no more time.”
Dan Bilefsky reported. Albee Zhang contributed research.