China says Canadian detainees face prosecution on national security charges

China says Canadian detainees face prosecution on national security charges

Two Canadian citizens detained in China for one year are now facing trial on charges related to national security.

Michael Kovrig's case involves allegations of "covertly gathering state secrets and intelligence for foreign forces" and Michael Spavor's case involves allegations of "stealing and illegally providing state secrets to foreign forces," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Tuesday.

"The investigative process on the two cases has been completed, and they have been transferred to prosecutorial authorities for investigation and prosecution. China's judicial authorities handle cases in strict accordance with law and protect the two Canadian citizens' lawful rights," she said during a news conference.

Spavor, originally from Calgary, and Kovrig were detained exactly one year ago today (Tuesday), just days after Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei, was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. authorities who want her on fraud charges.

Hua stated that China's judicial authorities handle cases "in strict accordance with law" and protect Canadian citizens' "lawful rights."

According to the federal government, the men have not had access to lawyers or contact with family members, and have had only limited consular access.

Meng is living under house arrest in one of her two luxury mansions in Vancouver.

The opposition parties in the House of Commons joined forces Tuesday night in their support for a Conservative motion compelling the Liberal government to create a committee to study Canada's ongoing diplomatic troubles with China. 

The vote, put forward by Conservative MP Erin O'Toole, proposed a motion to have a special committee of MPs "review all aspects of the Canada-China relationship including but not limited to, consular, economic, legal, security and diplomatic relations."

The motion, which passed by 171 votes to 148, asked for the committee to be composed of 12 members, six of which will be Liberals, four from the Conservatives, and one each from the Bloc Québécois and New Democrats. 

The motion included a provision requiring "the prime minister, the minister of foreign affairs, the minister of public safety, and the Canadian ambassador to China be ordered to appear as witnesses from time to time as the committee sees fit."

China calls Champagne's remarks 'irresponsible'

On Tuesday, China's Embassy in Canada responded to Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne's recent remarks on the one-year anniversary of Spavor and Kovrig's detention; the minister said the two Canadians have been "arbitrarily detained" in China.

In its own statement, the Chinese Embassy called those remarks "irresponsible."

"The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition, and has also made solemn representations to the Canadian side," it reads, adding there is no such thing as "arbitrary" detention in China.

"China is a country ruled by law. The Chinese judicial departments handle cases strictly in accordance with the law to protect the legitimate rights of the Canadian citizens mentioned above. China urges Canada to earnestly respect the spirit of the rule of law, respect China's judicial sovereignty and stop making irresponsible remarks."

Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti has raised concerns about Kovrig's and Spavor's lack of access to lawyers.

"Our heart goes out to them," he said. "It's our top priority. I know that ministers have been working hard to secure their release. I know they've had consular access, but it troubles me that they haven't had any access to legal counsel." 

Conservatives push for special committee

The Conservatives are pushing to strike a special committee to conduct hearings to review the Canada-China relationship in terms of consular, economic, legal, security and diplomatic relations.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O'Toole said the Liberals should welcome such a committee, arguing it would help resolve the consular cases rather than complicate them.

"If the Liberal government opposes this modest proposal, it is a recognition they simply want to avoid scrutiny of their handling of this diplomatic crisis over the last year," O'Toole said during a news conference in Ottawa. 

"If they oppose this recommendation of an all-party accountability mechanism, it will also show very early on in this minority Parliament that the Liberals only pay lip service when it comes to the concept of cross-party collaboration."

The Conservative motion calls for the prime minister, the minister of foreign affairs, the minister of public safety and the Canadian ambassador to China "be ordered to appear as witnesses from time to time as the committee sees fit."