A Chinese court has sentenced a Canadian businessman to 11 years in prison for espionage, in what will be viewed as a dramatic escalation in a rift between Beijing and Ottawa.
The court in the northern Chinese city of Dandong on Wednesday said Michael Spavor, a Canadian consultant who worked and lived in China, spied for a foreign country and illegally provided state secrets. The sentencing came one day after another Chinese court upheld the death penalty for a Canadian man convicted of drug trafficking.
Spavor and Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, were detained in China in December 2018 days after Canadian authorities arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the U.S. government. Critics of Beijing have called the detentions an act of retaliation and “hostage diplomacy.”
Weeks later, a Chinese court ordered a retrial of Robert Schellenberg, who was originally sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiring to traffic more than 200 kilograms of methamphetamine, and handed him a death sentence. At the time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the penalty “arbitrary.”
Trudeau has also called the arrests of Spavor and Kovrig an attempt by Beijing to pressure Canada to release Meng.
The Dandong court did not detail the accusations against Kovrig or Spavor.
The court said Spavor would also be deported, but it was unclear whether that would happen before or after his prison term. Kovrig has yet to be sentenced.
Meng remains on bail in Vancouver and is fighting extradition to the U.S.