Chinese officials have said that a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry did a mistake and misspoke. When it was announced that two Canadians who were held back for two years over accusations because it is linked to a case against a senior Huawei executive back in Canada.
At a press which was going on Thursday,10th December. Hua Chunying said that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – the two Canadians have been arrested, indicted and tried, this lead to a surprise from Canadian officials.
Later the Chinese officials confirmed that the confusion was caused by an inaccurate characterization of the process which was made by the Chinese MFA spokesperson, according to a statement which was given from Global Affairs Canada.
Kovrig and Spavor were arrested in the month of December 2018. It was a few days after Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou who was an executive at the Chinese telecommunications company at Huawei.
The announcement that they had been tried came two years after the day of the arrest of the two, as they have become known, and during the week that Meng’s extradition hearing is under way in Canada.
There has been little information from the Chinese authorities about Kovrig who was a former diplomat, and Spavor who was a Canadian businessman, who have reportedly been held without access to any lawyers or his family members.
Before the Thursday’s announcement that the two men had been tried for offences, there had been no news of their cases progressing after they were charged in June. Spavor faces charges them of suspected spying secrets and illegally providing them to overseas forces and Kovrig of spying on state secrets and intelligence.
The Canadian government has not responded publicly to Hua’s initial announcement, but the Globe and Mail reported it was urgently looking for a clarification, citing an unnamed Canadian diplomat in Beijing. The report noted that Hua had made a similar statement 10 days earlier that authorities had arrested and prosecuted them and have also put them on trial, but the court had later contradicted her statement, saying that no trial had taken place.
Canadian consular staff were not able to see both of them since January, because of the COVID – 19 pandemic, but in October they were allowed for a virtual visit. The staff reported that the men had been kept in such an extreme isolation that they had no idea of the pandemic going on around the world.
This year it is their third Christmas in detention, supporters have been asked to post Christmas cards which are addressed to the men to the Chinese ambassador in their country. Charles Parton was a former British diplomat and a friend of Kovrig. He started with the #FreeChinaHostages campaign, said that it was a way for people to register their disgust with Beijing’s practice of hostage diplomacy.
Kovrig’s former employer said in a statement marking the two-year anniversary of the arrest that his main and core offence was to be a Canadian citizen who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Meng is the chief financial officer of Huawei and was arrested in December 2018 on a US warrant, and faces charges of fraud and conspiracy in the New York country, over allegations given to her that she lied to a banking executive about a Huawei subsidiary accused of violating Iran sanctions.
Reuters reported last week that US prosecutors were discussing a plea deal with Meng’s legal team which would allow her to return back to China. Former Canadian diplomats have expressed their concern that a deal could be made without the release of the two Michaels as a condition.