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China begins trial of ex-Canadian diplomat on espionage charges

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Jim Nickel (2nd R), the charge d'affaires of the Canadian embassy in Beijing, stands next to another diplomat outside the Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court on March 22, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

A Chinese court has begun the trial of a former Canadian diplomat, who is charged with espionage after being arrested two years ago in Beijing.

The trial for Michael Kovrig started on Monday as police cordoned off an area outside the court.

Jim Nickel, the charge d'affaires of the Canadian embassy in Beijing, told reporters that the hearing had started and that access for diplomats “has been denied.”

Another Canadian detainee, businessman Michael Spavor, was also tried in a closed-door court in the northern city of Dandong on Friday.

The hearing lasted less than three hours and ended without any verdict being announced.

The two Canadians were arrested in China in December 2018.

Canada has described the arrest of its citizens as “hostage diplomacy,” suggesting they are linked to the case of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech company Huawei Technologies, who was detained by Canadian police on a US warrant.

Beijing has rejected the accusation, saying Meng's case is “a purely political incident.”

Meng remains under house arrest in Vancouver as she fights extradition to the United States on charges that she and the company violated US sanctions.

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