Americas, Asia - Pacific

2 Canadians freed after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou freed

Release of 'Two Michaels' comes hours after fraud charges dropped in Meng case

Barry Ellsworth   | 25.09.2021
2 Canadians freed after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou freed


China has freed two Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said late Friday. 

The news came after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou had fraud charges dropped by the US Justice Department earlier in the day. Hours later she was freed by a Canadian court and immediately boarded a plane to China.

The 'Two Michaels', as they are referred to, languished in a China prison for 1,019 days despite pressure exerted by Canada and its allies on Beijing to release the pair.

"These two men have gone through an unbelievably difficult ordeal," Trudeau announced in Ottawa, saying the pair had been released. "For the past 1,000 days, they have shown strength, perseverance, resilience and grace."

The two boarded a plane along with Canada's ambassador to China late Friday bound for Canada, said Trudeau.

Canadian-Chinese relations became strained after Meng was arrested in Vancouver in December 2018.

China was outraged by the arrest of the Huawei senior executive and demanded her release. A few days later the Two Michaels were detained in China and charged with espionage.

Over the next three-plus years, Trudeau maintained that the two Canadians were arrested in retaliation for the detention of Meng. Chinese officials insisted the pair were not imprisoned as a reprisal for Meng.

But a few hours after Meng boarded the airplane, the Two Michaels were released.

Both men were tried and convicted of espionage and Spavor received an 11-year sentence. Kovrig's sentence was pending.

Meng's charges were dropped by the US in a New York court as part of a deal where she signed a deferred prosecution agreement and promised to be of good behavior through to December 2022.

"Meng also has agreed not to commit other federal, state or local crimes," a New York judge said in a court statement. "If Meng breaches the agreement, she will be subject to prosecution of all the charges against her in the third superseding indictment filed in this case."

Meng then appeared in a Vancouver court where she was declared free. She wasted no time boarding a plane for China.

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