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Trial date still unknown for Canadian prisoners detained in China for 564 days

New pressure has recently been put on the Liberal government to put an end to Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s extradition process and release her.
Sam Edwards High Level, Alberta

New pressure has recently been put on the Liberal government to put an end to Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s extradition process and release her—which some believe would lead to the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, according to CBC News.

The two Canadian’s have now been held in a Chinese prison for over 550 days.

China has been accused of detaining the two men in connection with the arrest of Wanzhou by many including the Trudeau government.

Beijing dismisses the claims and has proceeded to accuse Spavor and Kovrig of spying. The men were formally charged last week following 18 months of detention.

Kovrig was charged with suspicion of spying for state secrets and intelligence, in Beijing while Spavor was charged with spying on a foreign entity and illegally providing state secrets, in Dandong.

Both Canadians have been accused of violating the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China—specifically Article 111. The article is concerns anyone who "steals, spies into, buys or unlawfully supplies State secrets or intelligence for an organ, organization or individual outside the territory of China."

Experts believe a guilty verdict for the man is a foregone conclusion and say it's hard to know when a trial will take place.

Their sentence can be anywhere from 10 years to life in prison.

Jacques deLisle a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said the men have clearly been held in "extraordinarily long detention" for political reasons.

He added that the charges that were laid last month certainly seem to have aligned with the Wanzhou case. It was ruled last month that Wanzhou’s extradition process could proceed to the next step.

"Having had them in detention for so long, and knowing how high profile this case is, I would be surprised if [the prosecutors] didn't have their ducks in a row to take this forward on a moment's notice if they felt inclined to do so," noted deLisle. "Whether they will do so is a political calculation."

But, if  "somebody has been detained for a long period, there's no reason [the legal process] can't move quickly," deLsile said. "It's not a system where the courts are profoundly backed up."

He added that Chinese prosecutors will not necessarily time their case with Wanzhou’s extradition proceedings, which may take a couple years.

"I don't think they will just indefinitely wait for the Meng case to come to a decision," said Sida Lui, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto.

The court system that the men are facing has a criminal trial conviction rate of about 99 percent, Lui said.

Nicholas Howson, a law professor at the University of Michigan law professor and Chinese law expert said, "Many high-profile criminal cases (less so in the civil sphere) in contemporary China are subject to the same kind of blunt intervention by Chinese political institutions.  That is only more likely in this case," adding, "I would not be counting on an acquittal."

"It's almost certain, I think, they will be found guilty."

Sam Edwards
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