BEIJING • Chinese prosecutors said yesterday they have charged two detained Canadians with suspected espionage, indictments that could result in life imprisonment, in a case that has driven a diplomatic wedge between Ottawa and Beijing.
Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested in late 2018 on state security charges, soon after the Canadian authorities arrested Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a United States warrant.
While China maintains the detentions are not linked to Meng’s case, former diplomats and experts have said the two are being used to pressure Canada.
China has repeatedly called for Meng’s release, and has warned Canada it could face consequences for aiding the US in her case.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing yesterday that the indictments were “of particularly serious circumstances which violated Article 111 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China”, which pertains to espionage and state secrets. Under that article, a conviction can carry a jail term of 10 years to life “when circumstances are particularly serious”.
“The facts are clear and the evidence is solid and sufficient. He should be held accountable for criminal responsibility under the above-mentioned charge,” Mr Zhao said of Kovrig, before making the same statement about Spavor.
The charges mean a formal trial can begin.
Canada has called the arrests “arbitrary”. The Canadian Embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month, China’s envoy to Canada, Mr Cong Peiwu, told Reuters the two detained men were “in good health”.