As in the days of the former Soviet Union, there is also a prisoner swap in the ‘New Cold War’ that the United States and China fight and that, in this case, has splashed Canada. Just after Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, left Vancouver after reaching an agreement that prevented her extradition to the New York court that claimed her, Beijing released two Canadians who had been imprisoned for espionage.
As Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this Saturday, “the plane carrying Michael Kovrig and Michel Spavor has already left Chinese airspace and they are returning home.” After almost three years of judicial and diplomatic saga, it is consummated like this the second part of the deal between the US, China and Canada to release the vice president of Huawei.
In exchange for acknowledging her responsibility by providing false information for her company to circumvent US sanctions against Iran, Meng avoided extradition to stand trial in New York and the charges against her will be dropped in December next year. Following the agreement, he took off on Friday afternoon from Vancouver airport on an unscheduled Air China flight to Shenzhen, where the company is based.
Hours later, Another plane took the ‘Michaels’ out of China, as the two Canadians prosecuted for espionage are known. Arrested in December 2018, just after Meng Wanzhou’s arrest in Vancouver, their case has always been viewed as harsh retaliation by Beijing. While the Huawei executive has lived on probation in one of her mansions in Vancouver, Spavor and Kovrig have spent all this time in prison and with little contact with their family or diplomats from their country.
In a dark process, both were tried for espionage behind closed doors and without the evidence against them being made public. Only after Michael Spavor, a businessman who did business with North Korea and had a relationship with Kim Jong-un, was sentenced to eleven years in prison, did the official Chinese media publish that he had sent photos of military aircraft to Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat and political analyst who lived in Beijing. In the midst of this crisis, another Canadian who had already been sentenced to 15 years in prison for drug trafficking, Robert Schellenberg, He was sentenced to death after his trial was repeated when new testimonies appeared against him. A coincidence that Canada and the rest of Western countries denounced as “hostage diplomacy” due to the opacity and lack of guarantees of the Chinese judicial system.
With this deal, the US president, Joe Biden, have a gesture with Xi Jinping to improve their relations after the turbulent mandate of Trump, who did not hide that the arrest of Meng Wanzhou served him to negotiate in the trade war with China. As in the times of the former USSR, there is also the exchange of prisoners in the ‘New Cold War’.