China slams Canada forming 'clique' to interfere in judicial process as Beijing tries Canadian Michael Kovrig over espionage charge
Published: Mar 22, 2021 07:51 PM
Photo: Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor (right)

Photo: Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor (right)

A court in Beijing on Monday opened the trial of a former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig over espionage charges, after Friday's trial against his key source Michael Spavor, who was suspected of stealing national secrets from China. 

Like the case of Spavor, Kovrig also was tried in a closed-door court as the case concerns national secrets. Both verdicts will be announced at a chosen time in accordance with the law. 

Foreign media reports said diplomats from more than two dozen countries gathered at the Beijing No.2 Intermediate People's Court on Monday while Kovrig was heading to the court. Jim Nickel, charge d'affaires of the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, spoke to the media outside the court.

The Chinese court in Dandong, Northeast China's Liaoning Province, said in the statement that the case was held in closed-door format because it concerns national secrets, and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during Friday's routine press briefing that cases involving state secrets shall not be heard in open court, and no one is allowed to sit in on the trial. 

Zhao cited China's Criminal Procedure Law and the Interpretation of the Supreme People's Court on the Application of the Criminal Procedure Law. 

However, foreign media outlets such as CNN and the Guardian still hyped that diplomats were denied access to the court in their headlines, in an attempt to accuse the Chinese court process of lacking transparency.  

The Financial Times also reported the case on Monday, with a photo portraying Michael Kovrig and Jim Nickel as people on the side of justice who are surrounded by supporters. 

Kovrig was accused of using an ordinary passport and a 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.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying slammed Canada for drawing diplomats from some countries' embassies in China and pointing their figures at China's handling of the individual cases. 

"This is gross interference in China's judicial sovereignty. China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to this, and will never accept it," Hua told Monday's routine press briefing. "Chinese courts fully protect their litigious rights."

"Because the case involves state secrets, the courts held the trial in private, in accordance with the law, which is beyond reproach," Hua stressed. "We have noted that the Criminal Law of Canada clearly stipulates that the Canadian judge has the right to decide to hold the relevant case in private for the purpose of safeguarding national security." 

Canada claims to be a country under the rule of law, while it makes irresponsible comments on the Chinese judicial authorities' handling of cases, which shows double standards on legal issues. This is not only hypocritical but also quite unreasonable, Hua said, urging the country to stop forming a diplomatic clique to put pressure on China, as it will only be in vain. 

"To protect personal privacy, some courts in the UK and the US will hold hearings in private. The military courts in the US also try  cases in closed-door sessions," Peng Qinxuan, an expert on international law from Wuhan University, told the Global Times on Monday. 

However, it is not important what the rules are in other countries, as China's laws specifically make it clear that their cases should be held in closed-door format, Peng said. "The trial will not be held according to  countries', or foreign reporters' personal willingness." 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokespersons have frequently released information concerning both cases, and China's judicial authorities have briefed about the cases. 

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