“The Michaels” are Back in Canada After Detention in China

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Two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who languished in Chinese prisons for nearly three years held emotional reunions with their loved ones after the culmination of a geopolitical saga that saw them return safely to Canadian soil.

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, also know as “the Michaels” landed in Calgary early Saturday morning and were welcomed home by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Global Affairs Minister Marc Garneau.

After exchanging hugs with the prime minister, Kovrig then boarded another plane bound for Toronto. His wife Vina Nadjibullah and sister Ariana Botha greeted him with emotional embraces on the tarmac.

Greetings and well-wishes to The Two Michaels poured in from across the country after the return of the men.“Welcome home, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” Trudeau tweeted after their arrival. “You’ve shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance. Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you, just as they have been.”

Kovrig and Spavor’s return to Canada ends a tense international standoff surrounding the U.S. extradition case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

When the Michaels were released on Friday, Meng was released to China from Vancouver after resolving the legal saga that mired all three of them in a geopolitical melee.

According to Ottawa Sun, the case connecting their fates came to a conclusion when Meng, the chief financial officer at Huawei Technologies and the daughter of the telecom’s founder, reached a deal with U.S. prosecutors over fraud and conspiracy charges related to American sanctions against Iran.

In a virtual appearance in a New York courtroom, Meng pleaded not guilty to all charges and the judge signed off on a deferred prosecution agreement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Kessler told the court that the agreement allows the charges against Meng to be dismissed after Dec. 1, 2022 — four years from when she was first detained in Vancouver — if she “complies with all her obligations” under the terms of the deal. Prosecutors agreed to drop a request that Meng is extradited to the U.S. from Canada.

Quickly after, Meng was released when a judge agreed to a discharge order, vacating her bail conditions and officially closing the Canadian case against her.

Meng’s arrest in Vancouver in December 2018 at the behest of the U.S. has been a source of simmering tensions between Ottawa, Washington and Beijing.

The Michaels were arrested in China on espionage charges days later in apparent retaliation. China has publicly stated that there is no connection between her case and the men’s imprisonment, but had also dropped broad hints that her freedom could benefit the two Canadians.

While Meng was on house arrest in a Vancouver mansion, the Michaels had to harsher conditions in Chinese prisons — their access to the outside world was highly limited.

Other countries labelled China’s action “hostage politics,” while China accused Ottawa of arbitrary detention.

Trudeau declared Canada spearheaded an international declaration denouncing state-sponsored arbitrary detentions because China decided to imprison “The Two Michaels.”

The quick-release of the two Michaels sends different messages from China, said Prof. Michael Byers, teacher of international relations at the University of B.C.

Firstly, that China is quite prepared to engage in hostage diplomacy. Secondly, the move to release the two Michaels immediately clears the way for trade negotiations with the U.S. without the presence of “irritants.” Byers also said, “China sees itself as a superpower and is willing to throw its weight around on the international stage.”

Ottawa Sun stated that “earlier this year, Kovrig and Spavor were both convicted of spying in closed Chinese courts — a process that Canada and dozens of allies said amounts to arbitrary detention on bogus charges in a closed system of justice with no accountability.”

Spavor is an entrepreneur who tried to forge ties to North Korea, received an 11-year sentence. Kovrig has not been sentenced.

In China, Meng’s return was broadcasted on live TV where she thanked the ruling Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping for supporting her during house arrest in Vancouver.

“I have finally returned to the warm embrace of the motherland,” Meng said. “As an ordinary Chinese citizen going through this difficult time, I always felt the warmth and concern of the party, the nation and the people.”

The Canadian Press has first published this report on Sept. 25, 2021. This article was originally sourced by Ottawa Sun.