“Human beings are not bargaining chips,” Blinken said, echoing the words of the U.S. President Joe Biden on the issue earlier last month.
We join our partners in calling on Beijing to immediately release the two arbitrarily detained Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. Human beings are not bargaining chips. https://t.co/e5WszeKKuS
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 23, 2021
Spavor and Kovrig, commonly referred to as the “Two Michaels,” were taken into custody in December 2018. While Chinese officials said the two men were charged with stealing state secrets, their detention has been widely interpreted as a hostile retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei’s senior executive Meng Wanzhou nine days earlier.
Meng was arrested in a Vancouver airport on the basis of a U.S. extradition warrant while she was en route from China to Mexico in December 2018. Meng and her company have been accused of fraud and conspiracy when allegedly lying to multiple financial institutions in an effort to evade American sanctions against Iran.
Meng was released on bail shortly after her arrest in 2018. She is currently under house arrest in one of her two mansions in Vancouver, and has been fighting her extradition since.
On Monday, Kovrig was put on trial in Beijing’s No. 2 Intermediate Court, three days after a separate trial for Spavor was held on March 19.
Jim Nickel, the deputy chief of mission of the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, said China’s barring foreign consular and officials from attending the closed-door hearing was a violation of Canada-China bilateral treaty obligations.
Nickel also said representatives from 26 countries were sent to show their support outside of the court, including the United States, the UK, Australia, and many European nations.
On Monday, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau issued a statement condemning China’s arbitrary detention of the two Micheals, and thanking the allied for their support.
“The eyes of the world are on these cases and proceedings and I want to thank our international partners for their continued support and solidarity,” Garneau said.