OTTAWA: Two Canadian citizens who were detained by Beijing for more than 1,000 days have left Chinese airspace and will arrive back in Canada early on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Friday (Sep 24).
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were picked up in December 2018, shortly after Vancouver police arrested Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant. Shortly before Trudeau spoke, Meng flew back to China after reaching a deal with U.S. authorities.
"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."
Although Beijing insisted throughout 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," he said.
The seemingly tit-for-tat arrests soured Canada-China relations.
Earlier, a Canadian judge ended extradition proceedings against Meng and lifted her bail conditions, allowing her to return to China for the first time since her arrest in Vancouver's international airport at the behest of US authorities on Dec 1, 2018.
The Canadian judge's move followed an agreement she made with the US Justice Department to suspend fraud charges against her.
Both Kovrig and Spavor were put on trial in March of this year. In August, Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison, while there had been no decision in Kovrig's case.
Trudeau previously denounced Spavor's sentence as "unacceptable and unjust," and said the charges were "trumped up".