Exclusive: Two Canadians confess guilt, granted bail for medical reasons before leaving China: source
China-Canada ties regain momentum on premise of Ottawa's diplomacy independence: experts
Published: Sep 26, 2021 09:52 PM

Two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, confessed their guilt for crimes they committed in China and were released on bail for medical reasons before they departed China on a plane to Canada on Friday, the Global Times learned from a source close to the matter on Sunday. 

After the confirmation from related departments and diagnosis of professional medical institutes and under the guarantee of the Canadian ambassador to China, Beijing No.2 Intermediate People's Court and the High People's Court of Liaoning Province decided to release them on bail in accordance with law, the source said.

Spavor, who was sentenced in August to 11 years in prison for espionage and illegal provision of China's state secrets to foreign entities, was found to have taken photos and videos of Chinese military equipment on multiple occasions and illegally provided some of those photos to people outside China. He also had personal property of 50,000 yuan ($7,700) confiscated and will be expelled.

The photos and videos Spavor took during his stay in China have been identified as second-tier state secrets. 

Spavor was a key informant of Kovrig and provided him with information over a long period. Sources told the Global Times that from 2017 to 2018, Kovrig entered China under the disguise of the forged identity of a businessman and had collected a large amount of information on China's national security through his contacts in Beijing, Shanghai and Jilin in Northeast China.

Kovrig wrote analysis reports based on this information, which included several confidential state secrets and intelligence.

A court in Beijing opened the trial of former Canadian diplomat Kovrig over espionage charges on March 22. The verdict was said to be announced at a chosen time in accordance with the law.

The Global Times learned during the process, the relevant departments detained, arrested the two Canadians in accordance with the laws and released them on bail based on the people's court's decision. Their legal right to defense and other litigation rights are fully protected. 

The two confessed to their crimes and wrote confession and repentance letters in their own handwriting. According to relevant authorities, the two defendants should strictly abide by the decision on bail. In case of violation, China can resume the trial of the alleged criminal acts.

The two Canadians flew home the same day as Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's senior executive, was freed after reaching a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the US Department of Justice in a case of federal charges against her for bank and wire fraud and returned home after being held for nearly three years in Vancouver.  

Some Western media outlets and politicians claimed the release of the two Canadians is "hostage diplomacy," however, the incident of Meng is entirely different from the cases of the two Canadians in nature, and experts said that Meng's was indeed a "political hostage" taken by the US and Canada given the mounting evidence. 

"First, the case of Meng is a typical political maneuver by Canadian politicians as it's a political incident cooked up by the US and Canada, but the criminal facts concerning the case of two Michaels are evident with many evidence showed by the Chinese courts, so these two Canadians are not so-called hostages at all," Yao Peng, deputy secretary-general of the Canadian Studies Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

That the two Canadians left China after they were released on bail is in line with legal procedures, Peng Qinxuan, an expert from the Wuhan University Institute of International Law, told the Global Times on Sunday. It is also common practice in the US to grant bail with certain guarantees and money to make sure the defendant will not cause danger to the society if granted bail. 

Ironically, as soon as the two Canadians touched down in Canada, the Canadian intelligence eagerly welcomed them, which proved their identities and activities of spies are not made up by China. 

"Welcome home, Michaels," Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) wrote on Twitter. "CSIS joins all Canadians in welcoming you back to Canada."

The so-called "hostage diplomacy" - a phrase boasted by the Canadian government, is an excuse that it has prepared to coax understanding within Canada as the Canadian government has never had the initiatives to resolve Meng's case because the US is behind the incident, Yao said. 

While the release of Meng and the return of the two Canadians may signal a new beginning for China-Canada relations, some experts remained cautious about mending the fences effectively since the bilateral ties reached a freezing point over the past few years. 

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University stressed that it remains to be seen how far Ottawa will align itself with Washington in its strategic competition with Beijing.

Li pointed out that in the short run Canada is unlikely to shake off the binding on diplomacy with the US which recognizes China as a strategic competitor, so its China policy highly depends on the US' China policy.

The bias on ideology and values are influencing Canada's diplomacy with China, which also limits the efforts of the Trudeau government to significantly improve its China policy, the Chinese expert noted.

Serving as a lapdog of the US government, the Trudeau administration had also faced harsh criticism domestically for its handling of the case of Meng, and China-related matters also became an issue that the Conservative Party of Canada, the opposition party, tried to capitalize on to pressure Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's ruling Liberal Party, according to experts. 

During recent Canada's election, Trudeau won enough seats in the 44th general election but still formed a minority government. 

"With the constraints of opposition parties, the anti-China vibes have a negative impact on China-Canada relations," Yao said. 

Also on Saturday, when Meng made her way home to China, the Communist Party of Canada sent congratulations for her release and return.  

Still, her return means the biggest political obstacle to bilateral relations has been removed, Yao said, noting that under the common vision of economic and trade exchanges, response to climate change and epidemic prevention and control, China-Canada relations are expected to gain some momentum but possibility of repair is only built under the premise that Canada maintains strategic autonomy in its policy with China.