Two Canadian’s departure from China followed reports that Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou flew back to China after reaching a deal with US authorities.
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 Prime 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 brief remarks.
BREAKING – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Michael Kovrig and Micheal Spavor are on a plane back to Canada right now. After a 1000+ days in a Chinese prison, the two Michaels are on their way back home #cdnpoli https://t.co/0RD39Rv075 pic.twitter.com/mQw0h1xTqC
— Mackenzie Gray (@Gray_Mackenzie) September 25, 2021
“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.”
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.”
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 cases were not linked, Trudeau’s Liberal government accused China of engaging in “hostage diplomacy”. Trudeau was not asked whether the two countries had struck 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.