Skip to main content

A young man holds a sign bearing photographs of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on Jan. 21, 2020. The two men will have been detained in China for 1,000 days on Sept. 4, 2021.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Supporters of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor plan to march through Ottawa on Sept. 5 to mark 1,000 days since the two Canadians were first detained in China.

On Facebook, the men’s families urged people to join them “in walking 7,000 steps” as a way to recognize their “courage and resilience” and to “inspire action” that will help bring them home.

“Every day in his cell, Michael Kovrig walks 7,000 steps to keep his mind and body healthy. Michael Spavor uses yoga, meditation, and exercises to stay strong,” the families said. “To show solidarity with them, we will be walking as a group in Ottawa on September 5th.”

Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor were detained in December, 2018, soon after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition request.

Both were charged with espionage and put on trial this year. Earlier this month, a Chinese court handed Mr. Spavor an 11-year prison sentence, but no verdict has been forthcoming in Mr. Kovrig’s case. Ottawa regards their detention as political and the charges against them unfounded.

The walk in solidarity falls a day after they will mark 1,000 days in prison. It will begin at Windsor Park at 9:30 a.m. and follow the canal pathway to Major’s Hill Park. People who cannot join the march in Ottawa are urged to walk 7,000 steps wherever they are and post a photo on social media using the hashtag #bringthemhome.

The march in Ottawa is one of a number of events to observe that grim milestone. The Globe and Mail, which prints a tally of the time the two Michaels have spent in detention on its front page every day, is organizing a letter-writing campaign to the Chinese embassy in Ottawa.

Michael Kovrig’s old punk band has also released a song calling for his release. On Wednesday, Bankrupt, the Hungarian band Mr. Kovrig performed with while he lived in Budapest, put out a new collaborative music video for The Plane to Toronto, which features supporters around the world handing out “Free Michael Kovrig” signs to each other.

“We’re hoping this could start a campaign of people posting photos and videos of themselves holding the Free Michael poster on social media,” said singer Balazs Sarkadi. “We’d like to see lots of #FreeMichaelKovrig posts.”

Speaking to The Globe last month, Mr. Kovrig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, said that “one of the hardest parts of this experience for Michael has been the crushing sense of isolation. He’s so disconnected from reality, from the world.

“What really helps his morale is to know that people are thinking of him, not just his family who are advocating for him but people around the world,” she said, adding that, as important as demonstrations of solidarity are, she hopes there’s a sustained effort to appeal to the Canadian government “to do everything to bring him home.”

So far, Ottawa’s efforts have been unsuccessful. Some supporters hoped Ottawa could convince Washington to drop the extradition request against Ms. Meng or negotiate a settlement with Huawei that avoids sending her to the United States.

Most observers agree that if Canada or the U.S. were to drop the case against Ms. Meng, China would likely release the two Michaels. Beijing has never said this explicitly, and the Canadian government ruled out intervening in Ms. Meng’s extradition hearings, saying it would undermine judicial independence.

The hearings in her case wrapped up in Vancouver last week. The judge is currently considering the verdict, a process that could take months.

A Chinese state-run newspaper recently initiated a petition drive to urge Ottawa to free Ms. Meng, describing her detention as “blatant political persecution.” A Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman in Beijing said the millions who signed the petition represented the “voice from China, and I hope Canada can listen to it.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a Chinese court's sentencing of Canadian businessman Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison for espionage on Wednesday was 'absolutely unacceptable' and called for his immediate release. Flora Bradley-Watson reports.

Reuters

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct