Prospects Dim for Imprisoned Canadians After Ministerial Meeting

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor denied consular visits in move Canadian foreign ministry calls violation of Vienna Convention
August 26, 2020 Updated: August 26, 2020

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne met with China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in Rome on Tuesday, raising hopes for the release of two imprisoned Canadians that were quickly dashed by a statement from Beijing.

Champagne reiterated that the immediate release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor remains a top priority for the Government of Canada. Beijing has prevented Canadian officials from seeing the two men.

“China is in violation of the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations by not granting both men consular access,” the Canadian foreign ministry said in a news release, after Champagne and Yi met in a hotel for 90 minutes.

Hopes that the meeting would contribute to the release of the two Michaels seemed dim after the regime blamed Canada for problems in Canada-China relations the next day.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Canada was to blame for tensions in bilateral relations, saying Canada was “well aware of the crux of the problem,” during a news conference in Beijing on Wednesday.

Kovrig and Spavor were arrested in December 2018 in a move widely read as retaliation for Canadian police detaining Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer for Huawei, on a U.S. extradition order.

Both Michaels were charged with spying on June 19. Spavor was charged in Dandong city on suspicion of spying for a foreign entity and for providing state secrets. Kovig was charged in Beijing with spying for state secrets and intelligence.

Huawei is seen by many analysts as a key tool in the Chinese regime’s foreign intelligence effort. The company provides infrastructure for cellular networks at reduced prices thanks to the support of the Chinese regime.

Meanwhile, Canada continues to call on the regime to grant clemency to all Canadians facing the death penalty in China.

With files from the Canadian Press