Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday August 12, 2021
Canada Considers Countering Winter Games and Hostage Diplomacy
Canada is being urged by legal and international experts to apply diplomatic pressure on both China and the United States to secure the release of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, following Spavor’s 11-year prison sentence by a Chinese court.
Spavor, an entrepreneur, was detained in China in December 2018 along with Kovrig on allegations of state spying, charges widely seen as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in connection with a U.S. extradition request. Meng’s formal extradition hearing began on Wednesday in British Columbia.
Since their arrest, Canada has been pushing for the release of Spavor and Kovrig. Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau condemned Spavor’s sentence on Wednesday.
“This decision was made after a process that lack both fairness and transparency including a trial that did not satisfy the minimum standards required by international law,” Garneau said at a press conference, adding Canada was is ‘intense’ discussions with both Chinese and U.S. officials to free both Spavor and Kovrig, who is still awaiting trial in China.
Trudeau, in a statement, called the sentence unacceptable and unjust.
“For Mr. Spavor, as well as for Michael Kovrig who has also been arbitrarily detained, our top priority remains securing their immediate release. We will continue working around the clock to bring them home as soon as possible,” he said.
Since the arrests in 2018, Canada has decried what it calls “hostage diplomacy” and in February launched the ‘Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations,’ which has now been endorsed by 66 countries.
Meanwhile, the Conservative Party leader has warned that it may soon be too dangerous for Canadians to travel to China for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. (CTV)
Speaking at a news conference on Ontario on Tuesday, leader Erin O’Toole said: “We are approaching a point where it won’t be safe for Canadians, including Olympic athletes, to travel to China.”
Diplomats from dozens of countries gathered at Canada’s embassy in Beijing on Wednesday to hear the Spavor verdict. The fate of a fellow Canadian, former diplomat Michael Kovrig, remains unclear.
O’Toole was speaking after a court rejected the appeal of a third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, whose prison term in a drug case was abruptly increased to death following Meng’s arrest.
Asked about the winter Games, O’Toole said: “Yes Canada should be considering a boycott.
“And I’ve said we’re going to be watching the decision very closely. Beijing has to know that the world is watching the genocide taking place against the Uyghurs. They’ve watched what’s been happening in Hong Kong and the situation with Mr Schellenberg, Mr Spavor and Mr Kovrig.”
He said Canada would have to think “long and hard on whether we reward a country like that with the Games”. (The Guardian)