Beijing [China], March 18 (ANI): Two Canadian citizens charged with espionage in China will go on trial Friday and Monday, more than two years after they were first detained.
Canada's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau, said the country's embassy in Beijing has been notified that court hearings for Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are scheduled to take place on March 19 and March 22, respectively.
"The arbitrary detention of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor is a top priority for the Government of Canada and we continue to work tirelessly to secure their immediate release. Our embassy in Beijing has been notified that court hearings for Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are scheduled to take place on March 19 and March 22, respectively," he said in a statement.
Former diplomat Kovrig and businessman Spavor have been detained in China since their arrest in December 2018.
Kovrig was accused of having used an ordinary passport and business visa to enter China to steal sensitive information and intelligence through contacts in China since 2017, while Spavor was accused of being a key source of intelligence for Kovrig, the Chinese government mouthpiece reported.
The "two Michaels" as they are often referred to are widely seen to be pawns in a diplomatic row between the two countries that began with the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on December 1, 2018.
"We believe these detentions are arbitrary and remain deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding these proceedings," the Canadian foreign minister added.
"Canadian officials are seeking continued consular access to Spavor and Kovrig, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the China-Canada Consular Agreement, and have also requested to attend the proceedings," Garneau said.
The minister said that Canadian officials will continue to provide consular support to these men and their families during this unacceptable ordeal. "Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed," he added.
An overwhelming majority of Canadians say there can be no improvement in bilateral relations with China until two of their compatriots held in detention in the country are released, an Angus Reid Institute poll has revealed.
Sino-Canadian relations soured after the arrest of Meng and two Canadian nationals in China - former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor - on charges of espionage. The ties have further worsened because of Ottawa's condemnation of Beijing's national security law implemented in Hong Kong and labelling China's human rights abuses in Xinjiang province as 'genocide'.
According to CNN, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who will be representing Washington at the meeting, has previously spoken out in support of the two Canadians, calling for them to be released "immediately and unconditionally." (ANI)