A Chinese court convicted Canadian businessman Michael Spavor of spying on Wednesday and sentenced him to 11 years in prison, in a decision that will likely worsen diplomatic relations between Beijing and Ottawa as the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei detained in Canada faces possible extradition to the U.S.
Spavor was convicted of spying and illegally providing state secrets to other countries, charges which have been decried by Canadian authorities and his family as vague and opaque.
According to Reuters, the Dandong Intermediate Court ruled that around $7,700 (¥50,000) of Sparvor’s personal assets will be confiscated and he will be deported from the country as well.
It’s unclear when Sparvor will be deported, but usually, it is done after a person has finished serving their sentence in prison.
The ruling in Sparvor’s case comes just a day after another Chinese court upheld the death sentence of a Canadian man who was convicted of drug smuggling, prompting strong condemnation from Canadian authorities.
The two rulings come at a time when lawyers representing Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei—who is currently detained in Canada—attempt to persuade to court to not extradite her to the United States.
Wednesday’s ruling threatens to further strain diplomatic ties between China and Canada which hit an all-time low in late 2018 after Canadian authorities arrested the Huawei executive in December 2018 at Vancouver International Airport on a warrant from the United States. The 49-year-old Meng has been charged with misleading HSBC Holdings about Huawei’s operations in Iran, potentially causing the lender to violate American sanctions. Meng’s arrest caused a major diplomatic row between Beijing and Ottawa. Immediately after this Spavor and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were detained in China in late 2018 and were accused of spying. Another Canadian man Robert Schellenberg was sentenced to death for suspected drug smuggling by a Chinese court in 2019, in what was viewed as a fallout of the diplomatic row. Schellenberg was arrested in China in 2014 and had initially been sentenced to 15 years in prison. On Tuesday, a Chinese court upheld Schellenberg’s death sentence, rejecting an appeal made by him. Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau condemned the decision and said “We have repeatedly expressed to China our firm opposition to this cruel and inhumane punishment.”
What To Watch For
Both Spavor and Korvig were charged with espionage in 2019. Korvig’s trial took place in March but no verdict has been reported yet.