Good morning. It’s James Keller in Calgary.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians who were detained in China in apparent retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, have landed on Canadian soil.
They were released shortly after Ms. Meng left Vancouver on Friday on a flight to Shenzhen. Earlier in the day, Ms. Meng agreed to a plea with American prosecutors and then appeared in a Vancouver courtroom as Canadian government lawyers formally dropped extradition proceedings.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met the two Canadians, who were accompanied by Canada’s ambassador Dominic Barton, on the tarmac at the Calgary airport.
“These two men have been through 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,” Mr. Trudeau said Friday in announcing Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor’s departure from China.
The Prime Minister said the two Michaels went through a “terrible time,” spending more than 1,000 days in Chinese prisons.
Ms. Meng had been out on bail and living in a $13.7-million Vancouver home. In contrast, while Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor have been held in Chinese jail cells where the lights remain on 24 hours a day.
Ms. Meng spoke to reporters after her hearing on Friday, thanking the judge who oversaw the case and describing her life a having been “turned upside down.”
“It was a disruptive time for me as a mother, a wife and a company executive,” she said.
Mr. Spavor was found guilty and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Mr. Kovrig had yet to learn a verdict in his case; in China’s judicial system, verdicts can be delayed for years, but nearly 100 per cent of tried cases end in conviction.
The federal government had resisted calls from prominent Canadians to free Ms. Meng in the hopes that Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig would then be released. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the idea, saying that would put more Canadians at risk of arbitrary arrests.
Canada’s former ambassador to China, John McCallum, was fired in 2019 for telling a reporter Ms. Meng had “quite good arguments” against her extradition while raising the possibility that the U.S. government might cut a deal to allow Ms. Meng to return the China and the two Canadians to come home. He later apologized for weighing in on the legal case.
For more background on the case, including an introduction to the main players in Canada and China, read our explainer. And for more about the extradition hearings, which wrapped up last month, we have an explainer for that, too.