Michael Spavor sentenced to 11 years, Robert Schellenberg death sentence upheld . . .
On August 10, the court in Dandong, China, sentenced Canadian businessman Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison and deportation for “the crime of spying and illegal provision of state secrets abroad.” The verdict comes after two and a half years of imprisonment for Spavor for what is widely viewed as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December 2018. Canadian Robert Schellenberg, initially sentenced in November 2018 to 15 years in prison on drug smuggling charges, saw his sentence increased to death in January 2019, after a retrial. A Chinese court upheld his death sentence on August 9.
The other Canadians jailed in China . . .
No dates have been identified yet for the trial of Michael Kovrig, the Canadian former diplomat arrested in China around the time of Spavor’s detention, but Canadian government sources say it was expected to be held shortly after Spavor’s sentencing. The arrest of the ‘Two Michaels’ has been widely covered by national and international media. They became the face of ‘hostage diplomacy,’ and their cases have significantly affected Canadian public opinion regarding China. But the Two Michaels and Robert Schellenberg are not the only Canadians imprisoned in China. The National Post reported in March that 119 Canadians are being detained in China on political, religious, drug, or spying-related charges.
What’s next . . .
It remains unclear when Michael Spavor’s deportation will take place. But while the Canadian government expects the deportation to happen after the completion of his 11-year sentence, Kevin Garratt, a Canadian detained in China from 2014-2016, sees a parallel with his ordeal. Garratt was deported to Canada not long after being sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage in 2016. With the extradition hearing for Meng Wanzhou currently being held in B.C. Supreme Court and expected to conclude later this month, many in Canada expect the fate of the Canadians imprisoned in China to be tied to the outcome of Ms. Meng’s trial.
- BBC: Michael Spavor: Canadian jailed for 11 years in China on spying charges
- The Guardian: ‘I pray for her’: Australian broadcaster Cheng Lei no closer to release a year after being detained in China
- Toronto Star: If China hadn’t targeted white Canadians, would Chinese-Canadian relations be business as usual?