Canadian PM Trudeau says Kovrig, Spavor have left China | Politics New…

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were picked up in December 2018 on charges of espionage but critics described it as ‘hostage diplomacy’.

Two Canadian citizens who were detained by Beijing for almost three years have left Chinese airspace and will arrive back in Canada early on Saturday, Canadian chief Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were picked up in December 2018 on charges of espionage, shortly after Canadian authorities arrested Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a US warrant.

Shortly before Trudeau spoke, Canadian media reported that Meng flew back to China after reaching a deal with US authorities.

“Twelve minutes ago Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor left Chinese airspace on their way back home,” Trudeau told reporters in fleeting remarks.

 

“These two men have been by an unbelievably difficult situation, but it is inspiring and it is good news for all of us that they are on their way home to their families.”

Trudeau said that Kovrig and Spavor were accompanied home by Canada’s ambassador to China, Dominic Barton.

“I know that there’s going to be time for reflections and analyses in the coming days and weeks. But the fact of the matter is, I know that Canadians will be incredibly happy to know right now, this Friday night that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are on the plane and they are coming home.”

‘Hostage diplomacy’

In a statement, US State Secretary Antony Blinken also welcomed the release, “after more than two-and-a-half years of haphazard detention”.

“We are pleased that they are returning home to Canada.”

Both Kovrig and Spavor were put on trial in March of this year.

In August, Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison, while there had been no decision in Kovrig’s case.

Their families at the beginning of September led hundreds of supporters marching 7,000 steps by the Canadian capital – the same number Kovrig said in letters to his family he walked in his small cell every day – to bring attention to their detention.

Representatives of 26 countries had also gathered outside the building in Beijing where his closed-door trial was held in March.

Supporters of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor march to mark 1,000 days since the Canadians were arrested in China, during a protest in Ottawa earlier this month [File: Blair Gable/Reuters]

Canadian and other diplomats were also barred from attending Spavor’s trial in the northern Chinese city of Dandong.

The two Canadians had had almost no contact with the outside world since their detention, and virtual consular visits only resumed in October 2020 after a nine-month interruption that authorities said was due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Al Jazeera’s Jody Vance, reporting from Vancouver, said Canadians were “joyful” about hearing the news.

“This has been a very long road, a worrisome road of over a thousand days,” she said.

But she also said that the episode has strained relations between Ottawa and Beijing, adding that the issue “is not going away anytime soon”.

“Where do we go from here in terms of the relationship between Canada and China?”

Although Beijing has insisted that the two situations were not connected, Trudeau’s Liberal government accused China of engaging in “hostage diplomacy”. Trudeau was not asked whether the two countries had hit a bilateral deal.

“I want to thank our allies and partners around the world in the international community who have stood steadfast in solidarity with Canada and with these two Canadians,” Trudeau said.



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