Pompeo urges China to release two detained Canadians after 'groundless' charges

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington,DC on June 10, 2020.

Hong Kong (CNN)The United States has spoken out forcefully against China's prosecution of two Canadian men for spying.

In a statement Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was "extremely concerned" about the decision to file espionage charges against Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been detained in China since 2018.
"These charges are politically motivated and completely groundless," Pompeo said. "The United States stands with Canada in calling on Beijing for the immediate release of the two men and rejects the use of these unjustified detentions to coerce Canada."
    Kovrig and Spavor were detained in the weeks following the arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese technology company Huawei in late 2018, on charges filed in the US.
      US prosecutors want Meng to stand trial on multiple charges, including bank fraud and violating US sanctions against Iran.
      Late last month, a Canadian judge ruled the extradition case against her could proceed, in what China's representatives to the country called a "grave political incident."
      Within weeks, new charges were announced against Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat and NGO worker, and Spavor, who founded a North Korea tourism company.
        China's legal system is beholden to the ruling Communist Party and is known for its exceedingly high conviction rate.
        On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the evidence against the two Canadians was "solid" and the "facts are clear."
        Zhao denied reports that the two men had been denied access to consular assistance, saying visits were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.