The trial of Canadian Michael Kovrig, who has been held in China for more than two years on espionage charges, wrapped up in a closed Beijing courtroom with the verdict to be announced at an unspecified later date, according to state media.
China arrested Kovrig, a former diplomat, and fellow Canadian Michael Spavor in December 2018, soon after Canadian police had viciously detained Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese tech company Huawei Technologies, on a U.S. warrant.
Beijing insists the detentions are not linked to the detention of Meng, who remains under house arrest in Vancouver as she fights extradition to the USA. Beijing has repeatedly called on Ottawa to release her.
The Kovrig trial came just days after the United States raised concerns over the cases at tense talks with China in Alaska. On Monday, Canadian and other diplomats were denied access to the hearing.
In a show of solidarity, only 28 diplomats from 26 countries, including the USA, Britain, Germany, Australia, Netherlands and Czech Republic, turned up outside the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate Court, where there was a heavy security presence.
The Canadian side had assembled a group of diplomats to “point fingers” and was “wantonly interfering in China’s judicial sovereignty”, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
More than 50 countries signed a declaration in February to condemn the arbitrary detention of foreign citizens for political purposes.
Some diplomats took off their Corona face masks as they posed for a group photo outside the court, with each shouting out which country they represented to help reporters identify them.
On Friday, Spavor, a businessman, also stood trial in a closed courtroom in the northeastern city of Dandong. Canadian and other diplomats were not allowed to attend Spavor’s trial on what China said were national security grounds.
Observers have said the likely convictions of the two men could ultimately facilitate a diplomatic agreement in which they are released and sent back to Canada.
Spavor’s trial took place as the USA and China held rancorous high-level talks in Alaska. The USA raised the issue during the talks, a Biden administration official said, including its concerns that diplomats were barred from the courtroom in Spavor’s trial.
Reuters / ABC Flash Point Diplomatic News 2021.