A court in China has found Canadian businessman Michael Spavor guilty of spying, sentencing him to 11 years in prison, in a decision likely to further undermine already poor relations between China and Canada.
Spavor, who for years ran a travel and cultural exchange business between China and North Korea, “was convicted of espionage and illegally providing state secrets”, Dandong city’s Intermediate People’s Court said in a statement on Wednesday.
Spavor and Kovrig have been held virtually incommunicado since they were first detained two-and-a-half years ago. Limited consular visits were stopped because of the coronavirus and only resumed last October, and neither man has been able to see lawyers or their family. Meng, meanwhile, was granted bail and is living in one of her Vancouver mansions while her case goes through the courts.
On Wednesday, the court in Dandong announced Spavor had been found guilty of spying and illegally providing state secrets to other countries. He was sentenced to 11 years in jail, confiscation of personal property, and fined 50,000 yuan ($7,715), according to a statement by the Liaoning Dandong intermediate people’s court.
Also, from an earlier Reuters article:
China has a conviction rate of well over 99%, and public and media access to trials in sensitive cases is typically limited.
In a statement, Spavor's family said the charges against him are vague and have not been made public, and that he has had "very limited access and interaction with his retained Chinese defense counsel."
It is not very difficult to find people accused of spying for China over the years. Their sentencing usually details, if not the secrets they stole, at least the circumstances of their spying.
A quick sample from Wikipedia:
Walter Liew In July 2014, Walter Lian-Heen Liew (aka Liu Yuanxuan) was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison for violations of the Economic Espionage Act, tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud, and obstruction of justice. Liew was convicted in March 2014 on each of the twenty counts charged. His company was found by the jury to steal trade secrets from E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company to state-owned companies of China, Pangang Group companies
Jerry Chun Shing Lee In January 2018, the F.B.I. arrested former C.I.A. officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee, charging him with unlawful possession of defense information. He may have compromised the identities of numerous CIA spies in China
Bo Jiang, a researcher working on "source code for high technology imaging" at NASA's Langley Research Center, was arrested for lying to a federal officer on March 16, 2013, at Washington Dulles International Airport before returning to China. Jiang allegedly told the FBI that he was carrying fewer computer storage devices than he was. He was accused of espionage by Representative Frank Wolf, and was investigated for possible violations of the Arms Export Control Act. An affidavit said that Jiang had previously brought a NASA laptop with sensitive information to China.
The key point here is that these people had access to secret material and what they were alleged to have done has been made public.
How did Spavor manage to access anything in the way of Chinese state secrets while running a travel agency? The closest I saw to actual charges were that Spavor passed on state secrets to Kovrig, the other Canadian arrested on unspecified spying charges.
In March China’s state media tabloid, the Global Times, said Spavor – who lived near the North Korean border and arranged cultural exchanges – was accused of supplying intelligence to Kovrig, a former diplomat turned analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Will Kovrig now be convicted of getting state secrets from Spavor, thus neatly completing the circle of evidence?