lørdag 25. september 2021

Beijing has denied taking political hostages. Experts say the fates of two Canadians suggest otherwise

After spending nearly 1,000 days in a Chinese jail cell, Canadian businessman Michael Spavor has finally received his court verdict — yet there is still no clarity on how much longer he will actually remain behind bars. Spavor, an entrepreneur with business ties in North Korea, was sentenced Wednesday to a prison term of 11 years for spying and illegally providing state secrets overseas. But the Chinese court also said he would be deported, without giving details on when, or how.

Spavor's fate, observers say, could hinge on the results of a court case unfolding on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, as a Canadian judge mulls over whether to proceed with the extradition of a Chinese tech executive wanted by the United States for fraud charges related to alleged Iran sanction violations.

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver in December 2018. Nine days later, Spavor and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were detained in China — a move widely interpreted as political retaliation for Meng's arrest.
"China has been practicing hostage diplomacy for a long time, and even more so under President Xi Jinping. It's a way of trying to put pressure on the Canadian authorities to release Meng Wanzhou and dismiss the extradition case," said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, chair professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University.