Canada: Detained Canadians to go on trial in China shortly

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A person holds a sign with photographs of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been detained in China since December, 2018, as people gather for a rally in support of Hong Kong democracy, in Vancouver on August 16, 2020.

Mr Garneau told a news conference on Wednesday that Mr Spavor was scheduled to appear in court on Friday and Mr Kovrig on Monday, according to the notification from Chinese authorities to the embassy in Beijing.

He says their detentions are "arbitrary" and that Canada continues to work "tirelessly" to secure their release.

Two Canadians charged with spying in China are to go on trial in the next few days, Canadian officials have said.

In a statement, Garneau says the detentions are arbitrary and the Canadian government remains deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding the proceedings.

He said ending the men's detention remained a top priority, and Canadian officials were seeking consular access, as well as requesting to attend the proceedings.

The timing is interesting, coming as it does on the eve of Thursday's closely watched meeting in Alaska between emissaries from Beijing and Washington.

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Their detention came shortly after Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei, on a U.S. warrant.

The two Canadians have been detained since December 2018 and were charged in June previous year with spying.

After Kovrig and Spavor were charged with espionage past year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the "political" nature of their case, saying their detention was a "decision made by the Chinese government and we deplore it".

The two men were detained following the arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei, over allegations the company violated United States sanctions on Iran.

The controversy has been taken up by several of Canada's allies, including U.S. President Joe Biden, who recently pledged his support to help free the two men.

Meng was detained on a US extradition request over allegations she lied to a Hong Kong banker in August 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating USA sanctions against Iran.

"Human beings are not bartering chips", Mr Biden said after speaking with Mr Trudeau by video link in February.

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