Mar 23, 2021

By Jane Brown

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It’s unclear if two Canadians detained in China for more than two years will have additional hearings after making their first court appearances in recent days behind closed doors.

Michael Kovrig went on trial in Beijing Monday, after Michael Spavor appeared in DanDong on Friday.

No verdicts have been announced, and Canadian diplomats were denied access to the trials because of alleged national security concerns, something the Canadian Embassy’s deputy chief of mission says is a violation of China’s international and bilateral treaty obligations.

In Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau expressed his frustration with the situation, but has not publicly offered a plan for next steps.

The Chinese government has provided almost no information about the accusations against the two men, but a newspaper run by the ruling Communist party alleges they collaborated in stealing state secrets and sending them abroad.

It is widely believed the Michaels were detained and charged as leverage to obtain the release of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December of 2018 at the request of the United States.

In a related development, Canada has imposed sanctions on four high ranking Chinese officials over what Ottawa describes as gross and systemic human rights violations against Uyghur and other Muslim ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The sanctions were imposed in solidarity with the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States.

It is the first time Canada has slapped sanctions on China since June 1989, in the aftermath of the military siege on student demonstrators in Beijing.

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