In 2018, China detained Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor amid the rising tensions between Canada and China. On Friday, Chinese officials announced they charged the two Canadians for espionage.

The move was made after Canada arrested a top Chinese executive of the tech giant Huawei, giving rise to Beijing's continuous punitive campaign, as reported by The New York Times.

Rising tensions

The two detainees, former diplomat Kovrig, and business consultant Spavor were taken into custody when Canada abided with the United States request of arresting Huawei's chief financial officer.

The prisoners have become the centre of attention at a time when relationships between the three countries have been at their lowest in the last several years.

Chinese court officials stated on Friday that they indicted Kovrig over charges of espionage for allegedly gathering secrets of the Chinese government and sharing them with foreign countries. Spavor, on the other hand, was detained for similar accusations in the northeastern city of Dandong.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had called China's action against the two detainees as a disappointing course of action. The two men have been held in the Asian country for 557 days before benign charged.

According to CBC, Trudeau announced the Canadian government would be working tirelessly and effortlessly to ensure the safe release of the two Canadian nationals.

The prime minister said in a press conference in Chelsea, Quebec, the government took the incident very seriously and that they have had experience in dealing with international detainees.

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Defending its own actions

On Friday, the Chinese government defended its actions during a news conference in Beijing, saying that the facts are clear and there is enough evidence to support the allegations against the two men, said Zhao Lijian, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Replying to a reporters question of China's perspective on hostage diplomacy, Zhao defensively stated that the question was malicious and turned the subject to Canada instead.

Reporters also asked a similar question to Prime Minister Trudeau at a news conference on Friday. The Canadian leader replied by saying Canada is doing everything in its power to ensure the release of the captives and end their unlawful detention.

Trudeau said, "We will continue to use all of our expertise to return these two Michaels to Canada."

The two Canadian nationals could face severe punishments if the Communist Party-led Chinese courts convict them of the crimes. Zhao, when asked on Friday if the two men would receive lengthy prison time or the death penalty, said the question was hypothetical.

Experts believe the move by China to charge the two nationals is a show of power and authority at a time when it is seen as being vulnerable. Recently, the Asian country had come face-to-face with international criticism over several issues, including the coronavirus pandemic and Hong Kong protests.

International governments and human rights activists have shared their criticism and outrage over the detention of the two men. Still, China is unlikely to be moved or affected by the statements.

A professor of political science, Jean-Pierre Cabestan, of the Hong Kong Baptist University, said the unjust detentions would have been unthinkable previously. He added the move is a clear indication of a seemingly new Cold War.

Cabestan noted that China's decision to detain the two Canadian nationals without due process of revealing details of the allegations worked against showing the impartiality of its judicial system.

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