A Chinese court convicted Canadian businessman Michael Spavor of espionage on Wednesday and sentenced him to 11 years in prison, in a case that is embroiled in a wider diplomatic spat involving Washington and Beijing. His sentencing comes as lawyers in Canada representing the chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei make a final push to convince a court there not to extradite him to the United States.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this decision after a legal process that lacked both fairness and transparency,” said Canada’s ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, who was at the detention centre in northeastern China where the verdict was delivered.
In a video address to diplomats and journalists gathered at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, Barton called for the release of Spavor and fellow Canadian Michael Kovrig, who is also awaiting a verdict in an espionage case.
Barton, who visited with Spavor following the verdict, said Spavor had three messages that he asked to be shared with the outside world: “Thank you for all your support”, “I am in good spirits,” and “I want to get home.”
n a statement Wednesday, the United States Embassy in China strongly condemned the verdict, describing it as a “blatant attempt” to use people as “bargaining leverage.”When Kovrig and Spavor charged with espionage last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the “political” nature of their case, saying their detention was a “decision made by the Chinese government and we deplore it.”