The United States is once again publicly calling for the immediate release of two Canadians detained in China.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent out a message on Tuesday, just one day after Michael Kovrig’s trial in China ended without a verdict. Michael Spavor’s trial, which took place on Friday, had the same outcome — though both have been promised a decision from the Chinese judicial system at a later date.
“We join our partners in calling on Beijing to immediately release the two arbitrarily detained Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig,” wrote Blinken in the tweet.
“Human beings are not bargaining chips.”
In the tweet, Blinken also linked to a Monday statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, in which the Canadian minister says he is “deeply troubled” by the “total lack of transparency” surrounding the trials. Both Kovrig and Spavor’s trials took place behind closed doors, with media, the public and diplomats from over 20 countries barred from entering the building.
China justified the opaque nature of the proceedings by insisting that the “state secrets” that had to be discussed in both cases made it impossible to open the courtroom doors.
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Both Spavor and Kovrig have been accused of espionage, a crime that is punishable in China by life in prison with a minimum sentence of 10 years. Chinese courts boast a 99.7 per cent conviction rate, meaning that once a trial is commenced, the odds of being convicted are all but a guarantee.
The two Canadians were detained in December 2018 in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. The arrest was at the behest of the United States, which had requested her extradition.
This isn’t the first time the current U.S. administration has publicly spoken out against the detention of the two Canadians. Following a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in late February, U.S. President Joe Biden said the two countries are working together to try to secure the release of the two detained Canadians.
“Human beings are not bartering chips,” Biden said, using language that Blinken mirrored in his statement on Tuesday.
“We’re going to work together until we get their safe return.”