BEIJING (AP) — China’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that two Canadians held for two years in a case linked to a Huawei executive have been indicted and put on trial, but gave no details.
Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have been confined since December 10, 2018, just days after Canada detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the founder of the Chinese global communications equipment giant.
China has said Kovrig and Spavor are being held on suspicion of committing acts harming China’s national security but neither it nor Canada has released specifics about their cases.
At a daily briefing Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the two had been “arrested, indicted and tried,” in what appeared to be the first public mention that they had been brought to court.
She reiterated that their cases and Meng’s were ”different in nature,” with Meng’s being a “purely political incident.” Despite that, China has consistently linked the fate of the two Canadians to its demands that Meng be released immediately.
The U.S. is seeking Meng’s extradition from Canada on fraud charges. Her arrest severely damaged relations between Canada and China, which has also sentenced two other Canadians to death and suspended canola imports.
Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, is living in a luxury Vancouver home while her extradition case continues in a British Columbia court. The U.S. accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to deceive banks and do business with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
It’s not publicly known where Kovrig and Spavor are being held or under what conditions, although Canada’s ambassador to China testified to a House of Commons committee this week that they were “robust.”
Canadian diplomats had been denied all access to the two men from January to October because of coronavirus precautions cited by the Chinese side. On-site visits were banned and not even virtual visits were permitted.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has described China’s approach as coercive diplomacy, spoke last month with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden about the case of the two men and said he expects Biden to be a good partner in persuading Beijing to release them.
Canada’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment on Hua’s remarks.