China sentences Canadian businessman to 11 years in prison for spying, in case tied to Huawei

Michael Spavor was detained in China in the aftermath of the Huawei CFO's arrest in Vancouver

Updated: August 11, 2021 - 7:52am

A Canadian businessman based in Beijing was sentenced by a Chinese court on Wednesday to 11-years in prison after being found guilty on charges of spying and providing state secrets to foreign countries. 

Michael Spavor was detained in late 2018 alongside Canadian Michael Kovrig on espionage charges following the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Canada.

The telecom giant's CFO was arrested over allegations that the company violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. Canadian politicians have repeatedly connected Spavor and Kovrig's detainment to the arrest of Meng, whose extradition hearing is reaching its final stages. 

Spavor's trial was held behind closed doors several months ago, making the evidence against him unclear. The court also said Spavor would be deported, though it was unclear whether that meant before or after serving his sentence.

Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the sentence handed to Spavor, adding that the trial lacked "both fairness and transparency." Spavor will now have two weeks to decide whether to appeal the decision.

In an atypical show of significant support for Canada, diplomats from several countries including the U.S., Japan, Germany, Australia, and others gathered at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. The governments of 25 countries have issued statements of support and issued appeals for Spavor and Kovrig to receive fair trials or be released.  

"While we disagree with the charges, we realize that this is the next step in the process to bring Michael home, and we will continue to support him through this challenging time," said Spavor's family. 

Barton, who spoke recently with Spavor, says the Canadian wished to share three messages: "Thank you for all your support, it means a lot to me. Two, I am in good spirits. And three, I want to get home."

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