SYDNEY – An Australian writer detained in China seven months ago has been formally arrested on suspicion of espionage, triggering swift demands from the government in Canberra that he be allowed to return home. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was "concerned and disappointed" that Yang Hengjun, a Chinese native who's now an Australian citizen, would "continue to be criminally detained." He is one of several detained foreign nationals whose cases have raised concerns about operating on the mainland. Two Canadians -- Michael Kovrig, a Hong Kong-based security analyst on leave from Canada's foreign service, and entrepreneur Michael Spavor -- were detained in December and later accused of espionage. "It is important, and we expect, that basic standards of justice and procedural fairness are met," Payne said in a statement Tuesday.
Canada has warned its citizens of the risk of "arbitrary enforcement" of local laws in China after a Canadian man convicted of drug trafficking was suddenly retried and sentenced to death, and Beijing denied another detained Canadian diplomatic immunity. The Canadian government on Monday updated its travel advisory for China, telling citizens to exercise a high degree of caution while in the country. The update noted the "risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws" and highlighted the severe penalties for drug offences, including death. It came hours after a court inin China's Liaoning province sentenced Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to be executed for drug smuggling following a day-long retrial in which the 36-year-old Canadian had declared his innocence. "The court completely rejects the accused person's explanation and defence because it is completely at odds with the facts," the chief judge said in a courtroom packed with observers, including Canadian embassy officials.
BEIJING - A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian man to death on Monday in a drug smuggling case as tensions heightened between the two countries over Canada's arrest last month of a top Chinese technology executive. In a sudden retrial, a Chinese court in northeastern Liaoning province announced that it had given Robert Lloyd Schellenberg the death penalty, reversing an earlier 2016 ruling that sentenced him to 15 years in prison. The court gave no indication that the penalty could be commuted, but Schellenberg's fate is likely to be drawn into diplomatic negotiations over China's demand for the release of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned Monday's proceeding, suggesting that China was using its judicial system to retaliate against Canada. In his strongest comments yet, Trudeau said "all countries around the world" should be concerned that Beijing is acting arbitrarily with its justice system.
Canada's ambassador to Beijing has met the second Canadian detained in China on suspicion of threatening national security. The Canadian foreign ministry said ambassador John McCallum met Michael Spavor, a business consultant, two days after visiting another detained Canadian, Michael Kovrig, a thinktank employee. "Canadian consular officials continue to provide consular services to him and his family and will continue to seek further access to Mr Spavor," the ministry said. China detained the two men after Canadian police arrested Huawei Technologies's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on 1 December at the behest of the United States. "We are being absolutely clear on standing up for our citizens who have been detained, trying to figure out why, trying to work with China to demonstrate that this not acceptable," Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, told Toronto's Citytv on Friday.
A third Canadian has been detained in China amid a diplomatic spat between Beijing and Ottawa over the arrest of a Chinese telecom executive. "Global Affairs Canada is aware of a Canadian citizen detained in China," ministry spokeswoman Maegan Graveline said in a statement, without providing further details, on Wednesday. The incident does not appear to be linked to the arrest of two other citizens over the past week, a Canadian official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters news agency. Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing she had "not heard" about the detention first reported by Canada's National Post newspaper. The recent detentions of Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat and Michael Spavor, a Canadian entrepreneur, have raised suspicion that Beijing is holding them in retaliation for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou's December 1 arrest.