Two Canadians who disappeared into China’s state security apparatus in what was widely seen as retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese telecom executive remain secluded in detention a year on, without access to lawyers or family.
Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have been languishing in China’s opaque legal system since they were apprehended on Dec. 10 last year, just nine days after the arrest of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟).
According to analysts, their fate is tied to what happens to Meng, who will have a hearing next month in a US extradition case that could potentially last years.
In the meantime, the trio face starkly different conditions.
Kovrig and Spavor have endured hours of interrogation and in the first six months of detention, they were forced to sleep with the lights on, according to people familiar with the matter.
However, Meng is reading and painting in a mansion in Vancouver, where she is allowed to travel under curfew, tracked by an ankle bracelet.
Diplomatic relations between Canada and China have hit rock bottom over the arrests, damaging trade between the countries. Beijing has repeatedly called for Meng’s release, while Ottawa says its citizens were arbitrarily detained.
“It’s a political case” and there are “very few signs of progress,” said Guy Saint-Jacques, the former Canadian ambassador to Beijing.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei (任正非), was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver on Dec. 1 last year.
Accused by the US of violating Iran sanctions, she has hired a team of lawyers to help her fight extradition in court.
“Right now, time seems to pass slowly,” Meng wrote in an open letter thanking supporters on the anniversary of her arrest.
Her mother and husband visit her, Ren told reporters, adding that he was in contact with his daughter, who is “suffering.”
Across the Pacific, Kovrig and Spavor have had no direct contact with anyone outside of consular visits that each last 30 minutes, sources said.
They face allegations of collecting state secrets, but neither has been formally charged, which suggests Chinese authorities may be “biding their time,” Saint-Jacques said.
Kovrig is being held in a cell with about 20 inmates in Beijing, while Spavor shares his with 18 people in Dandong, according to Saint-Jacques.
They are allowed outside for 15 minutes per day, he said.
In the first weeks following Kovrig’s arrest, even books were denied.
Spavor, who was based in northeast China, facilitated trips to North Korea, including past visits by US basketball legend Dennis Rodman. He even met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Kovrig’s employer, the International Crisis Group think tank, said that the former diplomat who was based in Hong Kong was regularly invited to the mainland by Chinese officials and could not have been viewed as hostile to China.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big