Canadian Michael Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Chinese court on spying charges. Spavor, along with another Canadian citizen, Michael Kovrig, was detained in China in 2018 following the arrest of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the United States.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau  speaks to the NATO Secretary General during a NATO summit at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels on June 14, 2021.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called China’s conviction and sentencing of Michael Spavor absolutely “unacceptable and unjust”.

In a lengthy statement, the prime minister described Spavor’s detention as “arbitrary” and stressed that his release still remains the Canadian government’s top priority.

“The verdict for Mr. Spavor comes after more than two and a half years of arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process, and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law,” Trudeau said.

Justin Trudeau added that “the Government of Canada continues to provide consular assistance to Mr. Spavor and his family as we work to secure his safe return.”

“Our thoughts, and the thoughts of all Canadians, are with Mr. Spavor and his loved ones during this incredibly difficult time. The Government of Canada continues to provide consular assistance to Mr. Spavor and his family as we work to secure his safe return. I want to thank Canada’s many partners, friends, and allies for their solidarity and support for the release of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig, and their opposition to the practice of arbitrary detention. We will not rest until they are safely brought home,” Trudeau concluded.

The statement was released shortly after Michael Spavor, a Canadian citizen, was sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Chinese court, which found him guilty of “spying overseas” and illegally providing state secrets to other countries.

China detained Spavor in December 2018 – several days after Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver.

On Tuesday, the Liaoning Province Higher People’s Court upheld the death penalty for another Canadian national, Robert Schellenberg, for drug smuggling. Schellenberg was arrested in 2014 for planning to smuggle about 227 kilograms (500 pounds) of methamphetamine from China to Australia. The Canadian was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison, but an appeal court in January 2019 sentenced him to death.

Ottawa denounced the decision to uphold the death penalty sentenec, describing it as “cruel and inhumane punishment” and promising to continue “to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to grant clemency to Mr. Schellenberg.”