China Frees Jailed Canadians After Release Huawei Executive

Sunday, September 26, 2021 | Tag Cloud Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

(Worthy News) – Two Canadian citizens, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and business executive Michael Spavor who were jailed in since 2018, have been released.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that Kovrig, who approached a reporter before his detention, and Spavor were on their way home.

The release of the two men was made public just hours after the U.S. Justice Department reached an agreement that cleared the way for China’s Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, to return to China. In exchange, she had to admit wrongdoing in a fraud case.

Trudeau said the men had been through “an unbelievably difficult ordeal.”

“It is good for all of us that they are on their way home to their families,” he added. “For the past 1,000 days, they have shown strength, perseverance, resilience, and grace”.

Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison last month by the Intermediate People’s Court of Dandong City for “espionage and transferring state secrets overseas.”

His sentencing included wording that Spavor would be deported but did not say when. That left an opening, it was believed, for continued between and China to secure his release.

Spavor is a founding member of the Paektu Cultural Exchange, facilitating international business and cultural ties with .

EX-DIPLOMAT JAILED

Kovrig, who faced similar charges, had not yet been sentenced. The former Canadian diplomat had worked as the senior advisor for North-East Asia of the mediating pro-peace thinktank International Crisis Group. The Group had complained that he was “denied almost all contact with the outside world since his arrest.” It expressed concern “for his health and well-being in detention.”

Their espionage case was widely viewed as China seeking leverage to pry Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou away from Canadian and U.S. authorities.

Meng, the daughter of billionaire Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested by Canadian authorities in Vancouver in December 2018. The detention came at the behest of U.S. authorities seeking her extradition.

While she lived a life in luxury while on bail, the Canadians were held in terrible prison circumstances, according to sources familiar with the case.

A March for the Michaels, marking the 1,000 days since they were detained in China, took place in Ottawa, the capital, earlier this month.

Michael Chong, a legislator, had been vocal about Canada’s relations with China on the Kovrig and Spavor affair. He accused the Trudeau government of not having done enough to ensure the men were released earlier.

CHINA POLICY

“After today’s developments, we are left thinking of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” Chong wrote. “The detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have taken far too long to resolve. That’s because the Trudeau government hasn’t had a clear policy on China.”

A third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, was sentenced to death for drug smuggling by a Chinese court in a January 2019 retrial, weeks after Meng’s detention.

His appeal was denied by a higher court, which said the earlier judgment was sound and the death sentence an appropriate punishment. It was not immediately clear Friday whether Canada would be able to negotiate his extradition.

Kovrig’s release was also closely watched in Hungary. From 1996 to 1999, Kovrig was the singer of the Hungarian punk rock Bankrupt. In July, Bankrupt released the song Pekingi nyár (Beijing Summer) and its English-language version, The Plane To Toronto, to protest the detention.

At the request of Kovrig’s family, the proceeds were to be donated to Hostage International, a group supporting families of hostages.

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