Chinese ambassador denies mistreatment of two detained Canadians

·2 min read

OTTAWA — China's ambassador to Canada says the media has "hyped up" stories about violations against the two Canadians detained in China.

Speaking at an event organized by the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations, Cong Peiwu said Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are on trial for suspected crimes of secretly gathering state secrets and leaking them to foreign countries.

"They have been detained and prosecuted ... for suspected crimes in secretly gathering state's secrets and intelligence for foreign forces," he said.

"Those charges are clear, and they have solid evidence to support them."

The men who have become known as the "two Michaels" were detained in December 2018, days after Canada's arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on an extradition request from the United States.

They have been in custody since, held on what the Canadian government and observers have described as bogus charges aimed at putting pressure on Canada to release Meng.

After more than two years years in detention, the first two separate hearings for them wrapped up last month with the verdict to be announced at an unspecified later date. The sentencing in the Chinese system can be delayed for years.

Peiwu said the men's trials are not open to the public because their charges are related to China's national security.

He accused Western media outlets of publishing inaccurate information about the conditions in which the two Canadians are being detained.

"Someone here would like to hype up the issues like they have been deprived the right to sleep, and their reading glasses have been taken away," he said. "There's nothing like that. This is just kind of hyping up by certain media."

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said last month following the secret hearing of the two Michael's last month that he's "deeply troubled by the total lack of transparency surrounding these hearings."

"We continue to work towards an immediate end to their arbitrary detention," Garneau said.

China has denied Canadian diplomats access to the hearings of Kovrig and Spavor.

Garneau said Canadian officials are seeking continued consular access the two detained Canadians in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the China-Canada Consular Agreement.

On March 30, Canadian consular officials were granted on-site virtual consular access to Michael Kovrig. The officials were granted on-site virtual consular access to Michael Spavor one day later.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press