China to put two Canadians on trial in coming days: Ottawa

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Protesters hold photos of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who are being detained by China

China will put two Canadians on trial within days following their arrests more than two years ago in apparent retaliation for the detention of a top Huawei executive, the Canadian government said Wednesday.

"Our embassy in Beijing has been notified that court hearings for Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are scheduled to take place on March 19 and March 22, respectively," Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement.

The businessman and the former diplomat were formally charged with spying last June.

Garneau renewed Canada's objections to their "arbitrary detentions," saying Ottawa "remains deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding these proceedings."

Canadian officials, he added, have demanded immediate consular access to the two men and asked to attend the trials.

Spavor is being held in Dandong while Kovrig was jailed in Beijing.

Their court dates come as an extradition hearing for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou enters its final months.

The United States wants the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei extradited to face trial on charges related to the Chinese telecom equipment maker's alleged violations of US sanctions against Iran.

US and Chinese top foreign officials are also scheduled to hold high-level meetings in Alaska on Thursday.

US President Joe Biden has publicly pressed for the Canadian pair's release after a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying last month that "human beings are not bartering chips."

Trudeau has accused Beijing of making up the charges against Kovrig and Spavor in an effort to put pressure on Canada to release Meng. The trio of arrests has roiled diplomatic relations between Canada and China.

His government said Wednesday their release remains a top priority.

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