The United States and the international community issued a slew of statements in a growing chorus of condemnation over China’s hefty sentencing of Canadian businessman Michael Spavor.
Spavor’s sentence of 11 years in prison dealt by a Chinese court on Wednesday was immediately condemned by Canada, as well as by representatives from the United States and 24 other governments, who attended a news conference at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing in a show of solidarity.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau immediately condemned Spavor’s sentencing, in a statement calling the verdict “absolutely unacceptable and unjust.”
Further statements were later released by officials around the world denouncing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) actions, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on the CCP to release Spavor and another Canadian, Michael Kovrig, “immediately and unconditionally.”
“We continue to condemn these arbitrary detentions as well as the sentence imposed against Mr. Spavor,” Blinken said in a statement Wednesday, adding: “The practice of arbitrarily detaining individuals to exercise leverage over foreign governments is completely unacceptable. People should never be used as bargaining chips.”
Spavor and Kovrig were arrested in China in December 2018 and were later charged with espionage. Their arrest came days after Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on a U.S. extradition warrant.
Meng is accused of being involved in a scheme to use the global banking system to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran. The two Michaels’ detentions were widely seen as a tit-for-tat response by the CCP over her arrest.
Other U.S. officials also raised their voices against Spavor’s verdict, with Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee calling the sentencing a “clear political move” and “despicable.”
“No internationally respected government arbitrarily detains foreign nationals,” he added, demanding the release of Spavor and Kovrig.
Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Foreign Subcommittee on Asia, condemned the CCP’s sentencing of Spavor and called on the CCP to “cease its use of hostage diplomacy.”
Trudeau and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in statements that they discussed Spavor’s sentencing and agreed to work together against arbitrary detention. They both also condemned the death sentence given to Robert Schellenberg that was recently upheld by a Chinese court.