Canadians, Chinese executive return home in prisoner swap

Sep 24, 2021, 5:36 PM | Updated: Sep 25, 2021, 3:18 pm
Michael Kovrig, center right, waves to media as his wife Vina Nadjibulla, centre left, and sister A...

Michael Kovrig, center right, waves to media as his wife Vina Nadjibulla, centre left, and sister Ariana Botha, left, after his arrival at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. China, the U.S. and Canada completed a high-stakes prisoner swap Saturday with joyous homecomings for Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians held by China and for an executive of Chinese global communications giant Huawei Technologies charged with fraud. (Frank Gunn /The Canadian Press via AP)

(Frank Gunn /The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (AP) — China, the U.S. and Canada completed a high-stakes prisoner swap with joyous homecomings for two Canadians held by China and for an executive of Chinese global communications giant Huawei Technologies charged with fraud, potentially bringing closure to a 3-year feud that embroiled the three countries.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hugged diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor on the tarmac after they landed in Calgary, Alberta early Saturday. The men were detained in China in Dec. 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder, on a U.S. extradition request.

Many countries labeled China’s action “hostage politics,” while China has described the charges against Huawei and Meng as a politically motivated attempt to holdback China’s economic and technological development.

“It’s fantastic to be back home in Canada and I am immensely grateful to everybody who worked hard to bring both of us back home,” a noticeably thinner Kovrig said after a Canadian government plane landed in Toronto and he was greeted by his wife and sister.

Meng’s return to China later Saturday was carried live on state TV, underscoring the degree to which Beijing has linked her case with Chinese nationalism and its rise as a global economic and political power.

Wearing a red dress matching the color of China’s flag, Meng thanked the ruling Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping for supporting her through more than 1,000 days in house arrest in Vancouver, where she owns two multimillion dollar mansions.

“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 chain of events involving the global powers brought an abrupt end to legal and geopolitical wrangling that has roiled relations between Washington, Beijing and Ottawa. The three-way deal enabled China and Canada to each bring home their own detained citizens while the U.S. wrapped up a criminal case against Meng that for months had been mired in an extradition fight.

“These two men have been through an unbelievably difficult ordeal. For the past 1,000 days, they have shown strength, perseverance and grace and we are all inspired by that,” Trudeau said of the two Canadians.

Meng’s been out on bail living in a multimillion-dollar mansion in Vancouver since her arrest while the two Canadians were held in Chinese prison cells for over 1,000 days where the lights were kept on 24 hours a day.

The first activity came Friday afternoon when Meng, 49, reached an agreement with federal prosecutors that called for fraud charges against her to be dismissed next year and allowed for her to return to China immediately. As part of the deal, known as a deferred prosecution agreement, she accepted responsibility for misrepresenting the company’s business dealings in Iran.

The deal was reached as President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have sought to tamp down signs of public tension — even as the world’s two dominant economies are at odds on issues as diverse as cybersecurity, climate change, human rights and trade and tariffs. Biden said in an address before the U.N. General Assembly earlier this week that he had no intention of starting a “new Cold War,” while Xi told world leaders that disputes among countries “need to be handled through dialogue and cooperation.”

“The U.S. Government stands with the international community in welcoming the decision by People’s Republic of China authorities to release Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig after more than two-and-a-half years of arbitrary detention. We are pleased that they are returning home to Canada,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

As part of the deal with Meng, the Justice Department agreed to dismiss the fraud charges against her in December 2022 — exactly four years after her arrest — provided that she complies with certain conditions, including not contesting any of the government’s factual allegations. The Justice Department also agreed to drop its request that Meng be extradited to the U.S., which she had vigorously challenged.

After appearing via videoconference for her New York hearing, Meng made a brief court appearance in Vancouver.

Outside the courtroom, Meng thanked the Canadian government for upholding the rule of law, expressed gratitude to the Canadian people and apologized “for the inconvenience I caused.”

“Over the last three years my life has been turned upside down,” she said. “It was a disruptive time for me as a mother, a wife and as a company executive. But I believe every cloud has a silver lining. It really was an invaluable experience in my life. I will never forget all the good wishes I received.”

Shortly afterward, Meng left on an Air China flight for Shenzhen, China, the location of Huawei’s headquarters.

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies. It has been a symbol of China’s progress in becoming a technological world power — and a subject of U.S. security and law enforcement concerns. Some analysts say Chinese companies have flouted international rules and norms and stolen technology.

The case against Meng stems from a January 2019 indictment from the Trump administration Justice Department that accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and using a Hong Kong shell company called Skycom to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. The indictment also charged Meng herself with committing fraud by misleading the HSBC bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

The indictment came amid a broader Trump administration crackdown against Huawei over U.S. government concerns that the company’s products could facilitate Chinese spying. The administration cut off Huawei’s access to U.S. components and technology, including Google’s music and other smartphone services, and later barred vendors worldwide from using U.S. technology to produce components for Huawei.

The Biden White House, meanwhile, has kept up a hard line on Huawei and other Chinese corporations whose technology is thought to pose national security risks. Huawei has repeatedly denied the U.S. government’s allegations and security concerns about its products.

Former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, Kovrig’s former boss, said he was elated the two Canadians are home.

“Clearly, the Chinese were so eager to get Meng back that they jettisoned all pretensions that the two Michaels had been arrested for good reasons. They must acknowledge that their reputation has been severely tarnished,” Saint-Jacques said. “There is grumbling in the Communist party of China, people saying, ‘In which direction are we going, Xi Jinping? We are creating too many enemies. Why are we enemies with countries like Canada and Australia?'”

Saint-Jacques said he thinks China will think twice before using “hostage diplomacy” again.

____

Eric Tucker in Washington, Jim Mustian in New York and Jim Morris in Vancouver, Canada, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Polish senators question cyber experts in hacking inquiry

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish Senate commission opened an investigation into the use of powerful spyware against government critics by hearing testimony Monday from cybersecurity experts, who compared targeting of opposition figures under the right-wing government to methods used by the Kremlin against critics in Russia. John Scott-Railton and Bill Marczak, senior researchers with […]
1 day ago
A health worker applies a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a community health center in Brasi...
Associated Press

Omicron slamming S. American hospitals as workers fall ill

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — The coronavirus’ omicron variant starting to barrel across South America is pressuring hospitals whose employees are taking sick leave, leaving facilities understaffed to cope with COVID-19´s third wave. A major hospital in Bolivia’s largest city stopped admitting new patients due to lack of personnel, and one of Brazil’s most populous states […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Car plunges off California elevated highway, 3 people killed

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Three people died after the car they were in plunged off an elevated section of a highway near Los Angeles and landed on the street below, authorities said. The single-vehicle crash on Interstate 210 happened at about 8:30 p.m. Sunday in Pasadena, according to the California Highway Patrol. Two people in […]
1 day ago
FILE - Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, listens during a House Armed Servic...
Associated Press

Joint Chiefs chairman and Marine Corps chief have COVID-19

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing very minor symptoms, a spokesperson said Monday. The Marine Corps said its commandant, Gen. David Berger, also has COVID-19. Milley, who has received the vaccine and a booster shot, tested positive on Sunday, Joint Chiefs spokesperson […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Ex-Guinean President Conde flown abroad for medical care

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Former Guinean President Alpha Conde left the country for medical treatment in the United Arab Emirates after spending more than four months in the custody of the military junta that overthrew him, witnesses said Monday. No details were given on his diagnosis, though witnesses at the airport in Conakry, the capital, […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Steve Schapiro, prize-winning photographer, dies at 87

NEW YORK (AP) — Steve Schapiro, a prize-winning photographer whose indelible images ranged from the March on Washington to the set of “The Godfather” and other films, has died at age 87. Schapiro died Saturday at his home in Chicago, according to spokesperson Heidi Schaeffer. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. A New York […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Canadians, Chinese executive return home in prisoner swap