The World University Games that were due to open in China in just over four months have been postponed until next year, the governing body the FISU said on Friday.
Decision prompted by pandemic, travel restrictions
The Associated Press ·
The World University Games that were due to open in China in just over four months have been postponed until next year, the governing body the FISU said on Friday.
The Switzerland-based FISU said COVID-19 and travel restrictions prompted the postponement, adding the decision was made jointly with officials in China.
The multi-sport event, which features about 8,000 athletes, was to have opened in Chengdu in western China on Aug. 18, just days after the closing of the Tokyo Olympics. A rescheduled date has not been announced.
The country has two other large multi-sport events coming up. The Winter Olympics open on Feb. 4, 2022 in Beijing, and the Asian Games, which feature more sports than the Olympics, are set for Hangzhou from Sept. 10, 2022.
China has become the go-to nation for many of these mega-events because it pays the costs, builds venues quickly, and does not need voter approval, which is common in many European countries.
U.S. President Joe Biden is including rivals Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China among the invitees to the first big climate talks of his administration, an event the U.S. hopes will help shape, speed up and deepen global efforts to cut climate-wrecking fossil fuel pollution, administration officials told The Associated Press.
Biden is seeking to revive a U.S.-convened forum of the world’s major economies on climate that George W. Bush and Barack Obama both used and Donald Trump let languish.
Leaders of some of the world’s top climate-change sufferers, do-gooders and backsliders round out the rest of the 40 invitations being delivered Friday — including to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It will be held virtually April 22 and 23.
WATCH | Environment minister on Canada’s ambitions for emissions reduction targets:
Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the federal government will announce more aggressive emissions reduction targets in April at the U.S. climate summit: “We need to ensure our targets are aligned with the science.” 2:26
Hosting the summit will fulfil a campaign pledge and executive order by Biden, and the administration is timing the event with its own upcoming announcement of what’s a much tougher U.S. target for revamping the U.S. economy to sharply cut emissions from coal, natural gas and oil.
The session — and whether it’s all talk, or some progress — will test Biden’s pledge to make climate change a priority among competing political, economic, policy and pandemic problems.
It also will pose a very public — and potentially embarrassing or empowering — test of whether U.S. leaders, and Biden in particular, can still drive global decision-making after the Trump administration withdrew globally and shook up longstanding alliances.
The Biden administration intentionally looked beyond its international partners for the summit, reaching out to key leaders for what it said would sometimes be tough talks on climate matters, an administration official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. plans for the event.
That makes next month’s summit the first major international climate discussions by a U.S. leader in more than four years, although leaders in Europe and elsewhere have kept up talks.
U.S. officials and some others give the Obama administration’s major-economies climate discussions some of the credit for laying the groundwork for the Paris accord. The United States and nearly 200 other governments at those talks each set targets for cutting their fossil-fuel emissions, and pledged to monitor and report their emissions.
Another Biden administration official said the U.S. is still deciding how far the administration will go in setting a more ambitious U.S. emissions target.
The Biden administration hopes the stage provided by next month’s Earth Day climate summit — planned to be all virtual due to COVID-19 and all publicly viewable on livestream, including breakout conversations — will encourage other international leaders to use it as a platform to announce their own countries’ tougher emission targets or other commitments, ahead of November’s UN global climate talks in Glasgow.
The administration hopes more broadly that the session will demonstrate a commitment to cutting emissions at home and encouraging the same abroad, the official said.
That includes encouraging governments to get moving on specific, politically-bearable ways to retool their transportation and power sectors and overall economies now in order to meet those tougher future targets, something the Biden administration is just embarking on.
Like the major-economies climate forums held by Bush and Obama, Biden’s invite list includes leaders of the world’s biggest economies and European blocs.
That includes two countries — Russia and China — that Biden and his diplomats are clashing with over election interference, cyberattacks, human rights and other issues. It’s not clear how those two countries in particular will respond to the U.S. invitations, or whether they are willing to co-operate with the U.S. on cutting emissions while sparring on other topics.
China is the world’s top emitter of climate-damaging pollution. The U.S. is No. 2. Russia is No. 4.
Climate scientists and climate policy experts largely welcomed Biden’s international overture on climate negotiations, especially the outreach to China.
“China is by far the world’s largest emitter. Russia needs to do more to reduce its emissions. Not including these countries because they aren’t doing enough would be like launching an anti-smoking campaign but not directing it at smokers,” said Nigel Purvis, who worked on climate diplomacy in past Democratic and Republican administrations.
Ideally, government leaders will be looking for opportunities to talk over specific matters, such as whether broad agreement is possible on setting any price on carbon emissions, said Bob Inglis, a former Republican lawmaker who works to involve conservatives and conservative approaches in climate efforts.
“That’s why this kind of outreach makes sense,” he said.
Brazil is on the list as a major economy, but it’s also a major climate backslider under President Jair Bolsonaro, who derailed preservation efforts for the carbon-sucking Amazon and joined Trump in trampling international climate commitments.
The 40 invitees also include leaders of countries facing some of the gravest immediate threats, including low-lying Bangladesh and the Marshall islands, countries seen as modelling some good climate behaviour, including Bhutan and some Scandanavian countries, and African nations with variously big carbon sink forests or big oil reserves.
Poland and some other countries on the list are seen as possibly open to moving away from dirty coal power faster.
Biden and other administration officials have been stressing U.S. climate intentions during early one-on-one talks with foreign leaders, and Biden climate envoy John Kerry has focused on diplomacy abroad to galvanize climate efforts.
Biden discussed the summit in a conversation Friday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with both leaders agreeing on the need to keep emissions-cutting targets ambitious, the White House said.
The trial of Michael Kovrig, the second of two Canadians detained in China for more than two years, is underway in Beijing in a closed courtroom, a senior Canadian diplomat said Monday.
China arrested Kovrig, a former diplomat, and fellow Canadian Michael Spavor in December 2018, soon after Canadian police detained Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech company Huawei, on a U.S. warrant.
Beijing insists the detentions are not linked to the arrest of Meng, who remains under house arrest in Vancouver as she fights extradition to the United States.
Global Affairs Canada confirmed Sunday that Canadian officials won’t be granted permission to attend.
“We’ve requested access to Michael Kovrig’s hearing repeatedly but that access is being denied” over national security reasons, said Jim Nickel, chargé d’affaires at the Embassy of Canada to China, outside the court on Monday in Beijing.
“Now we see that the court process itself is not transparent. We’re very troubled by this.”
In a show of solidarity, 28 diplomats from 26 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Netherlands and Czech Republic, turned up outside the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate Court on Monday, which was marked by a heavy police presence.
“[U.S.] President [Joe] Biden and [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken have said that in dealing with the cases of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the United States will treat these two individuals as if they were American citizens,” William Klein, chargé d’affaires of the U.S. embassy in China, told reporters as he stood beside Nickel.
“We are here to show solidarity. Arbitrary detention is not the way,” another diplomat told Reuters, declining to be named as she was not authorized to speak on the record about the Canadians’ trial.
More than 50 countries signed a declaration in February to condemn the arbitrary detention of foreign citizens for political purposes.
Some diplomats took off their face masks as they posed for a group photo outside the court, with each shouting out which country they represented to help reporters identify them.
Verdict to come in Spavor trial
On Friday, Spavor, a businessman, underwent a trial behind closed doors in a court in the northeastern city of Dandong. The court said it will set a date later for a verdict.
Canadian and other diplomats were not allowed to attend Spavor’s trial on what China said were national security grounds, a lack of transparency that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “completely unacceptable.”
Observers have said the likely convictions of the two men could ultimately facilitate a diplomatic agreement whereby they are released and sent back to Canada. Chinese courts have a conviction rate of over 99 per cent.
Earlier Sunday, Vina Nadjibulla, Kovrig’s wife, praised recent public comments from Trudeau, Biden and Blinken in support of “the two Michaels,” as they have become known around the world.
But Nadjibulla said in an interview on CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live that she wants to see those words translated into actions that secure their release as soon as possible.
“Solidarity and support and words are good, and we must continue to say those things,” Nadjibulla told host Rosemary Barton.
“But what really will make a difference for Michael [Kovrig] and for Michael Spavor now are actions and concerted diplomatic effort on the part of all three governments to find a path forward.”
WATCH | Michael Kovrig’s wife calls for end of detention ahead of trial:
The wife of Canadian Michael Kovrig, who was to stand trial Monday in China for alleged espionage, is calling for a diplomatic solution to end the detention of her husband as well as fellow jailed Canadian Michael Spavor. 2:01
The court hearing for Canadian citizen Michael Spavor, detained by China since late 2018 on suspicion of espionage, ended on Friday after around two hours.
Jim Nickel, Charge d’affaires of the Canadian Embassy in China, told reporters the court did not issue a verdict on the case, and it was not immediately clear whether there will be another hearing or when a verdict may be issued.
Chinese courts have a conviction rate of over 99 per cent.
Spavor was present for the hearing, Nickel said, citing confirmation from his lawyer, but Spavor was not seen outside the closed court and there was no word on his condition.
Earlier, Canada said its consular officials were not given permission to attend the proceedings despite several requests. They have been notified that a court hearing for Spavor would be held Friday, and one for Michael Kovrig would follow on Monday.
China has not publicly confirmed the court dates. Calls to the court in Dandong, the northeastern city where Spavor was charged, went unanswered.
Diplomats refused entry
Sidewalks were roped off with police tape and journalists were kept at a distance as police cars and vans with lights flashing entered the the court complex, located beside the Yalu River that divides China from North Korea.
Nickel knocked on a door to the court seeking entry but was refused. He was told the trial would begin at 10 a.m. but was given no word on how long it would last or when a verdict would be announced.
“We are disappointed in the lack of access and the lack of transparency,” Nickel told reporters before the trial was scheduled to begin.
WATCH | Michael Spavor’s trial starts amid new U.S.-China talks:
As new talks between Washington and Beijing got underway, the trial for Michael Spavor, one of two Canadian men detained in China for more than two years, started. He is charged with spying, but the federal government sees the charges against him and Michael Kovrig as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. 4:30
“The reason that has been given is it’s a so-called national security case and their belief is that the domestic law overrides international law, which in fact is not the case. China does have international obligations to allow consular access,” he said.
Trial coincides with U.S-China talks
Canadian officials last saw Spavor on Feb. 3 and had made multiple requests to see him ahead of the trial, Nickel said, but those requests were denied.
On the street opposite the courthouse, another 10 diplomats from eight countries, including the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, stood in a show of support.
Observers have said the likely convictions of the two men could ultimately facilitate a diplomatic agreement whereby the two men are released and sent back to Canada.
The trial dates were announced by Canada just as the United States and China were preparing to hold high-level talks in Alaska, the first since U.S. President Joe Biden took office, which have proven to be contentious.
China on Thursday denied a link to those talks.
International and bilateral treaties required that China provide Canadian diplomats access to the trial, but the court said Chinese law regarding trials on state security charges overrode such obligations, Nickel said.
Prior to the trial, the U.S. expressed its support for the two Canadians.
“The United States is deeply alarmed by reports that People’s Republic of China (PRC) authorities are commencing trials for Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on March 19 and 22, respectively,” Katherine Brucker, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Ottawa, said in a statement.
“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Canada in calling for their immediate release and continue to condemn the lack of minimum procedural protections during their two-year arbitrary detention.”
Spavor and Kovrig were detained in December 2018, days after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the request of the U.S. at the airport in Vancouver. The U.S. is seeking her extradition to face fraud charges related to her company’s dealings with Iran.
Details of charges not released
The two Canadians have been held ever since, while Meng has been released on bail. They were charged in June 2020 with spying under China’s national security laws.
Spavor, an entrepreneur with North Korea-related business, was charged with spying for a foreign entity and illegally providing state secrets. Kovrig, an analyst and former diplomat, was charged with spying for state secrets and intelligence in collaboration with Spavor.
Prosecutors have not released details of the charges and trial proceedings in national security cases are generally held behind closed doors. The state-owned Global Times newspaper said Kovrig was accused of having used an ordinary passport and business visa to enter China to steal sensitive information and intelligence through contacts in China since 2017, while Spavor was accused of being a key source of intelligence for Kovrig.
Extradition hearing in Vancouver for Meng
In Vancouver on Thursday, Meng’s lawyers told an extradition hearing Canadian officials abused their power when they conspired with the U.S. to arrest her. Defence lawyer Tony Paisana said Canadian Border Services Agency officers took Meng’s phones, obtained their passwords, then handed to them to Canadian police so the data could be shared with the FBI.
Paisana said Meng was never told during questioning that she faced an arrest warrant in the U.S. and would have immediately asked for a lawyer if so informed. British Columbia Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes suggested border officers would have questioned Meng more rigorously if their exam was actually a covert criminal investigation, as her lawyers said.
China has demanded Meng’s immediate and unconditional release, saying the U.S. engineered her detention as part of a drive to contain China’s growing rise. Canadian authorities say Kovrig and Spavor were arbitrarily arrested to put pressure on Ottawa and say they should be released without charge.
China has also restricted various Canadian exports, including canola oil seed, and handed death sentences to another four Canadians convicted of drug smuggling.
Kevin Garratt, another Canadian who detailed in China for almost two years on accusations of spying, offered some insight into the court process to which Spavor might be subjected.
“The problem was I couldn’t really talk to my lawyer … I was never given permission to talk to him,” Garratt, who was released in 2016, said on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics Thursday. “I could never really defend myself.”
WATCH | Garratt says it’s time for Canada to rethink its relationship with China:
Kevin Garratt, who was detained in China for more than two years, says that he thinks the Canadian government needs to “disengage to some extent” with China: “I think they really need to reconsider the relationship with China.” 6:43
Garratt, who was held in the same prison as Spavor, said he entered his own court process with hope, but got the feeling the trial didn’t matter.
“I don’t think it will be any different for him,” Garratt said of Spavor. “And it’s just a horrible, horrible feeling. And the whole prison system and judicial system in China is made to make you feel hopeless.”
After more than two years in prison, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are to be tried in China for espionage over the coming week.
“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,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau in a media statement.
“We believe these detentions are arbitrary and remain deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding these proceedings.”
Kovrig and Spavor were detained in China on Dec. 10, 2018 — nine days after Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver.
Meng was detained on a U.S. extradition request over allegations she lied to a Hong Kong banker in August 2013 about Huawei’s control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.
The arrests of Kovrig and Spavor are widely seen as an act of retaliation by Beijing for Meng’s arrest.
Garneau said ending the “arbitrary detention” of the two Canadians remains a top priority for the Liberal government, and that Ottawa will continue to provide support to the two men during the trial.
“Canadian officials are seeking continued consular access to Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the China-Canada Consular Agreement, and have also requested to attend the proceedings,” he said.
Trump’s trade remark
The U.S. has staunchly supported Canada in its efforts to free the two Canadians, despite initial comments by former U.S. president Donald Trump that threatened to derail the case against Meng.
Ten days after Meng’s arrest in Canada, Trump was asked if he would allow his government to intervene in the case if it meant the U.S. would get an improved trade deal with China.
“If I think it’s good for what will be the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what’s good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” Trump told the Reuters news agency.
Since Trump’s electoral defeat, U.S. President Joe Biden has affirmed his administration’s support for Canada’s efforts to secure the release of the two men.
“Human beings are not bartering chips,” Biden said during his virtual visit to Ottawa last month. “We’re going to work together to get their safe return. Canada and the United States will stand together against abuse of universal rights and democratic freedoms.”
Meanwhile, Meng’s extradition hearing continues in a B.C. courtroom continues this week as the Huawei executive maintains her innocence.
The Canadian Olympic Committee says its “strong preference” is for athletes competing in the Tokyo Games this summer to receive a COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada.
David Shoemaker, CEO and secretary general of the COC, delivered his thoughts in a statement after the International Olympic Committee and China announced details of a vaccine partnership on Thursday.
The deal will have the Chinese Olympic Committee buying and providing vaccines for people taking part in the upcoming Games in both Tokyo and Beijing.
However, none of the Chinese vaccines are approved for use in Canada.
Shoemaker says the COC “will continue to follow Health Canada guidelines and the recommendations of our chief medical officer and the return to sport task force for all matters relating to the health and safety of Team Canada.”
Vaccines are not mandatory for athletes to compete in the Tokyo Games.
Federal officials said Wednesday that Canada is expected to have received one dose for each Canadian by the end of June. The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin July 23.
The partnership comes as criticism of China continues ahead of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
Meanwhile, a pair of Canadian Olympic gold medallists and a Toronto-based infection disease specialist are hopeful the IOC-China vaccine deal can help other countries in the fight against COVID-19.
If a vaccine isn’t approved in Canada, you wouldn’t recommend a Canadian athlete get that vaccine. It’s as simple as that.– Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infection disease expert
Wrestler Erica Wiebe says it would be a great outcome if the partnership “can help athletes and citizens of countries with less robust vaccination plans than Canada.”
Wiebe, who captured gold in 2016 in Rio, says she’s optimistic Canadians can have one dose of an approved vaccine before Canada Day.
Two-time trampoline champion Rosie MacLennan hopes she and every Canadian in her age category has access to a Canadian-approved vaccine by July.
“I’m hopeful this is possible given the increasing numbers of available doses coming to Canada in the next few weeks and months,” the 32-year-old said.
“Generally speaking, the more athletes who are vaccinated, the better. It would allow not only greater protection for athletes, but also for Japan and our respective countries as we return home.”
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert at the University of Toronto, says the vaccine deal is a sign that the Olympics will be held.
“It’s a total equity issue,” said Bogoch, who is on Ontario’s vaccine task force.
“Some individuals in some countries just won’t have access because their country is not as fortunate as Canada or the United States or the European Union countries. Doesn’t mean they don’t have world-class athletes that should have every opportunity to compete. And this will enable that.”
Bogoch thinks Canadian athletes should stick to vaccines with a green light in Canada.
“I think from a Canadian perspective, if a vaccine isn’t approved in Canada, you wouldn’t recommend a Canadian athlete get that vaccine. It’s as simple as that. You would want a Canadian athlete to have a vaccine that’s approved in Canada,” he said.
China’s ceremonial legislature on Thursday endorsed the Communist Party’s latest move to tighten control over Hong Kong by reducing the role of its public in picking the region’s leaders.
The measure adds to a crackdown against protests in Hong Kong since 2019 calling for greater democracy. That has prompted complaints Beijing is eroding the autonomy promised when Hong Kong return to China in 1997 and hurting its status as a global financial centre.
The National People’s Congress voted 2,895-0, with one abstention, to endorse changes that would give a pro-Beijing committee power to appoint more of Hong Kong’s lawmakers, reducing the number elected by the public. Delegates routinely endorse party plans by unanimous vote or overwhelming majorities.
President Xi Jinping and other party leaders sat on stage in front of delegates as they cast votes electronically. The NPC has no real powers but the party uses its brief annual meeting, the year’s highest-profile political event, to showcase major initiatives.
The changes in Hong Kong would give a pro-Beijing committee power to appoint more of its lawmakers, reducing the number elected by the public. Details have yet to be announced, but Hong Kong news reports say the committee might pick one-third of lawmakers.
The mainland government has rejected complaints it is eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy and says the changes are necessary to protect the region’s stability.
Also Thursday, the NPC endorsed the ruling party’s latest five-year development blueprint. It calls for stepping up efforts to transform China into a more self-reliant technology creator — a move that threatens to worsen strains with Washington and Europe over trade and market access.
Last year, the party used the NPC session to impose a national security law on Hong Kong in response to the protests that began in 2019. Under that law, 47 former legislators and other pro-democracy figures have been arrested on subversion charges that carry a possible maximum penalty of life in prison.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi defended the changes in Hong Kong as needed to protect its autonomy and defend its “transition from chaos to governance.”
China and Russia said they will build a lunar research station, possibly on the moon’s surface, marking the start of a new era in space co-operation between the two countries.
A statement posted on the website of the China National Space Administration Wednesday said the International Lunar Research Station would also be open to use by other countries, but gave no timeline for its construction.
It described the project as a “comprehensive scientific experiment base with the capability of long-term autonomous operation.”
The station would be “built on the lunar surface and/or on the lunar orbit that will carry out … scientific research activities such as the lunar exploration and utilization, lunar-based observation, basic scientific experiment and technical verification,” the statement said.
It said a memorandum of understanding on the project was signed Tuesday by Zhang Kejian, administrator of the China National Space Administration, and Russian space agency Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin.
China’s space program has worked with Russia, but not NASA
China drew heavily on Russian expertise in the early years of its space program, but has largely forged its own path since launching its first crewed mission in 2003. Despite that, China’s Shenzhou spaceships closely resemble Russia’s Soyuz capsules and the CNSA has worked with countries around the world, apart from the U.S.
Congress bans almost all contacts between NASA and China over concerns about technology theft and the secretive, military-backed nature of China’s space program.
WATCH | A look at China’s recent moon mission:
China says the lander-ascender of its Chang’e-5 probe separated from the orbiter-returner and landed on the moon to collect samples, as this animated video shows. 1:03
Russia and China will “adhere to the principle of ‘co-consultation, joint construction, and shared benefits,’ facilitate extensive co-operation in the ILRS, open to all interested countries and international partners, strengthen scientific research exchanges, and promote humanity’s exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purpose,” the Chinese statement said.
Russia is a participant in the International Space Station but its space program has been somewhat eclipsed by those of China, the U.S., India and others. In its most recent development, Russia successfully test-launched its heavy lift Angara A5 space rocket for the second time in December after lengthy delays and technical problems.