Pompeo urges China to release two Canadians detained after ‘unfounded’ charges

In a statement Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was “extremely concerned” about the decision to file espionage charges against Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been detained in China since 2018.

“These charges are politically motivated and completely unfounded,” said Pompeo. “The United States supports Canada by calling on Beijing for the immediate release of the two men and rejects the use of these unjustified detentions to compel Canada.”

US prosecutors want Meng to be tried on multiple charges, including bank fraud and violation of US sanctions against Iran.

Late last month, a Canadian judge ruled that the extradition case against him could proceed, in what China’s representatives in the country called a “serious political incident.”

Within weeks, new charges were announced against Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat and NGO worker, and Spavor, who founded a North Korean tourism company.

China’s legal system is subject to the ruling Communist Party and is known for its extremely high conviction rate.

On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the evidence against the two Canadians was “solid” and that the “facts are clear.”

Zhao denied reports that the two men had been denied access to consular assistance, saying that visits were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been detained in China since 2018.
Speaking to CNN last year, Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as Canada’s ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016, said the consular visits men had were very limited and that they had had no access to lawyers or visits from relatives.

“In both cases they receive consular visits once a month, exactly 30 minutes, with someone there watching the entire discussion,” he said. “These mainly serve to give them news of their family and give them books and other reading material. It is very difficult for them, they are waiting and they have no idea when and how they could be released.”

In his statement, Pompeo said Washington echoed Canada’s “call for immediate consular access to its two citizens, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, as China has prohibited such access for nearly six months, and the world is unaware of the two Condition of Canadians. “

In a Washington where China’s difficulty is the default, Pompeo has emerged as a harsh voice in Beijing, criticizing Chinese movements in the South China Sea and Hong Kong, as well as the treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
After a meeting with Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in Hawaii last week, of which few details were released, Pompeo urged European leaders to “remove the gold blinders from economic ties and see that China’s challenge He is not alone at the gates, he is in every capital, he is in every district, he is in every province. “

“Europe faces a challenge from China, just as the United States does, and in the same way as our South American, African, Middle Eastern and Asian friends,” Pompeo said.

His tough line has made him a hate figure in the Chinese media, where editorials regularly criticize him. Last week, Zhao, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, accused him of having a “deep-seated Cold War mindset and ideological bias.”