(The Canadian Press)

China charges ‘two Michaels’ with spying in Huawei-linked case

The charges were announced by China’s highest prosecutor’s office in brief social media posts

China has charged two detained Canadians with spying, escalating tensions between the two countries following the arrest in Vancouver 18 months ago of a senior Huawei executive wanted on U.S. charges.

Chinese prosecutors said Friday that Michael Kovrig was charged in Beijing on suspicion of spying for state secrets and intelligence.

Michael Spavor was charged in Dandong city near the North Korean border on suspicion of spying for a foreign entity and illegally providing state secrets.

The charges were announced by China’s highest prosecutor’s office in brief social media posts.

Both men have been held since December 2018 in a move seen as an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei.

China has denied any explicit link between her case and the lengthy detention of the two Canadian men, but outside experts see them as tied and Chinese diplomats have strongly implied a connection.

The daughter of Huawei’s founder was arrested at Vancouver’s airport on Dec. 1, 2018, at the request of U.S. authorities who want her on fraud charges, which she and the company have denied.

Meng is out on bail as hearings are ongoing in B.C. Supreme Court after a judge rejected the first set of arguments from her lawyers late last month in a bid to set her free.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes ruled Meng’s alleged offences would constitute a crime in Canada and the case should proceed.

The next round of legal arguments is set to focus on whether Meng’s arrest was unlawful and whether the U.S. records of the case contain misstatements or omissions.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa denounced Holmes’s decision and called once more for Meng’s immediate release.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne responded in turn by calling for the release of the two “arbitrarily detained” Canadian men.

Kovrig is an ex-diplomat who was working for the International Crisis Group and Spavor is an entrepreneur who did business in North Korea.

They have been in Chinese prisons since they were arrested nine days after Meng’s arrest.

The conditions under which the two Canadians are being held has been the subject of scrutiny.

Kovrig and Spavor had no access to lawyers or their families as of May, with the exception of a phone call the Chinese embassy said Kovrig was allowed to make to his sick father in mid-March.

At the same time, the embassy said Kovrig and Spavor were being provided with better food to strengthen their immunity against the novel coronavirus.

It said detention centres were closed due to the epidemic, so Kovrig and Spavor were receiving more frequent letters and parcels to ensure their contact with Canadian diplomats in China.

The allegations against Meng, who is Huawei’s chief financial officer, date back to 2013.

The U.S. is seeking to extradite Meng on fraud charges based on allegations she lied to HSBC about Huawei’s relationship with Skycom, a telecommunications company in Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating American sanctions against that country.

But in a case management memo dated June 12, Meng’s lawyers assert their client delivered a presentation to an HSBC banker in Hong Kong that included statements about Huawei’s business activities in Iran, but the statements were omitted from U.S. records of the case.

They argue Meng’s statements provided the bank with “the material facts it needed to know in order to assess whether there was any risk to HSBC in continuing to provide banking services to Huawei, including processing U.S. dollar transactions related to Huawei’s commerce in Iran.”

The tensions between Canada and China have spilled over into trade between the two countries including canola exports from Canadian farmers.

Earlier this month, Huawei’s ambitions to be a player in Canada’s 5G network were very much cast in doubt after two of the country’s three largest telecom companies announced partnerships with the Chinese company’s European rivals.

Bell Canada announced on June 2 that Sweden-based Ericsson will be its second supplier of the radio access network equipment — a major component in fifth-generation wireless networks — following its choice of Finland’s Nokia in February.

Later in the day, Telus Corp., which uses Huawei equipment extensively in its current network, announced that it too had selected Ericsson and Nokia for its 5G network needs.

Huawei is the world’s biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies.

The announcements come as Ottawa continues its review of Huawei’s role in Canada’s 5G networks over security concerns due to suspicions about the company’s relationship with China’s government.

The United States has warned Canada, the United Kingdom and other allies that it will limit intelligence sharing with countries that have Huawei equipment in their 5G networks — citing its potential use for spying by China, an allegation Huawei denies.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tough time for tree fruits as some B.C. farm products soar

Province reports record 2019 sales, largely due to cannabis

United Way Southern Interior and local partners announce Sustainable Recovery Grant Recipients

The 2020 recipients will receive one-time grant funding for customized coaching and support

Tourism Golden targets closer markets during COVID-19

Tourism Golden is looking to market people from the coast of BC and Canadians this summer

RCMP identify dangerous driver from near head-on collision by Golden

Police say the extremely dangerous and illegal maneuver put multiple lives at risk

21 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in B.C. as virus ‘silently circulates’ in broader community

Health officials urge British Columbians to enjoy summer safely as surge continues

Separate trials set for 2018 Kelowna Canada Day killing

Four people have been charged with manslaughter in relation to Esa Carriere’s death, including two youths

Kootnekoff: New workplace harassment and violence requirements

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, her diverse legal career spans over 20 years.

Tough time for tree fruits as some B.C. farm products soar

Province reports record 2019 sales, largely due to cannabis

Summerland Museum to hold walking tours

Community’s past will be explained during series of summer tours

‘Let’s all do a self-check’: Okanagan mayor reacts to racist vandalism targeting local family

Home of Indo-Canadian family in Summerland was targeted on evening of July 13

Summerland mayor asks for community conversation following racist vandalism

Home of Indo-Canadian family in Summerland was targeted on evening of July 13

Province agrees to multimillion-dollar payout for alleged victims of Kelowna social worker

Robert Riley Saunders is accused of misappropriating funds of children — often Indigenous — in his care

COVID-19 cases at Oliver farm likely linked to Kelowna outbreak, says Interior Health

A team of doctors, nurses and health investigators are at the Krazy Cherry Farm to test employees

Most Read