Diplomats denied access during Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig’s trial in China

Beijing [China], March 22 (ANI): Several diplomats were denied access to a Chinese court on Monday as the detained Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig went on trial in Beijing on espionage charges.

Canada’s charge d’Affairs Jim Nickel on Monday accused China of breaching international treaty obligations by denying consular officials access to their citizens, CNN reported.

“Michael Kovrig has been detained for two years now, he’s been arbitrarily detained, and now we see the court process itself is not transparent, and we’re very troubled by this,” he said.

Nickel said that access had been denied to diplomats because it was a ‘so-called national security case’.

Diplomats and journalists were met by a large presence of police personnel and repeated attempts to enter the building before the trial went underway were rebuffed, CNN reported citing reporters.

Former diplomat Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have been detained in China since their arrest in December 2018, following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

Kovrig was accused of having used an ordinary passport and business visa to enter China to steal sensitive information and intelligence through contacts in China since 2017, while Spavor was accused of being a key source of intelligence for Kovrig, the Chinese government mouthpiece had reported.

Spavor had gone on trial in Dandong, on Friday, which was held behind closed doors and lasted for only two hours. The court said that it would “deliver its verdict at a later date in accordance with the law.”

Meanwhile, family members and contacts of the two Canadian men have said that they are being held in poor conditions and denied outside contact, reported CNN.

Both the United States and Canada have repeatedly called for Kovrig and Spavor’s release, denouncing their detention as political and arbitrary.

As Chinese courts have a conviction rate of more than 99 per cent, observers say the release of the two men could now rest on a diplomatic solution.

On Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had slammed China’s treatment of two of its nationals there, saying it threatens both ‘respect for the rule of law’ and Beijing’s relationships with Western nations.

“China needs to understand that it is not just about two Canadians. It is about the respect for the rule of law and relationships with a broad range of Western countries that is at play with the arbitrary detention and the coercive diplomacy they have engaged in,” said Trudeau in a press briefing, reported CBC News.

Sino-Canadian relations have soured after the arrest of Meng and two Canadian nationals in China and have been further exacerbated by Ottawa’s condemnation of Beijing’s national security law implemented in Hong Kong and alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang province. (ANI)

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