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Chinese court sentences Canadian to 11 years on spying charges seen as 'hostage politics'

A court in Dandong, China, sentenced Canadian citizen Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison Wednesday on spying charges filed shortly after Canada detained well-connected Chinese business executive Meng Wanzhou in December 2018. Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies and daughter of its founder, awaits extradition to the U.S. to face criminal charges tied to violating Iran sanctions.

Shortly after Meng's detention, China arrested Spavor and Canadian former diplomat Michael Kovrig on spying charges and abruptly increased the 15-year drug smuggling sentence for a third Canadian, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, to a death sentence. Critics labeled the arrests "hostage politics," The Associated Press reports, and Wednesday's verdict "is the latest indication of how Beijing is stepping up pressure on Canada ahead of a court ruling on whether to hand over" Meng to the U.S. courts. Kovrig has not been tried yet, and another Chinese court upheld Schellenberg's death sentence on Tuesday.

The Dandong court said Wednesday that "for the crime of spying and illegal provision of state secrets abroad, [Spavor] has been sentenced to 11 years in jail, confiscation of 50,000 yuan ($7,715: £557) worth of personal property, and deportation." It wasn't clear when he will be deported.