The cases of arbitrarily-detained Canadians, including Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, were raised during a call between the U.S. foreign secretary and a top Chinese official on Friday, according to the U.S. State Department.
Both Spavor and Kovrig have been detained since December of 2018, following the RCMP’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou earlier that month.
The topic of arbitrarily-detained Canadian and U.S. citizens were brought up during a call between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese foreign affairs commission director Yang Jiechi, according to a readout.
“The Secretary raised several cases of U.S. and Canadian citizens subject to arbitrary detention and exit bans in China and called for the immediate release of those wrongfully detained,” it read.
Their detentions are widely believed to have been retaliation for Wanzhou’s arrest in Vancouver, who is now undergoing an extradition trial to the United States. Both Kovrig and Spavor were tried in March earlier this year after being charged with espionage, with no immediate verdict.
Following the release of the readout, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau thanked the U.S. for its support in helping release the two detained Canadians.
“Thank you @SecBlinken for your continued support to secure the immediate release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” read the tweet.
Garneau most recently told a parliamentary committee on Monday that bringing home the two Michaels was a “top priority in our dealings with China,” and that other democracies were learning to grapple with China’s growing authoritarianism and coercive diplomacy.
“China of 2021 isn’t the same China of 2016, and Canada’s approach needs to evolve with an evolving China,” he said on Monday.
While both Kovrig and Spavor received virtual visits two weeks ago from consular officials, Garneau said that China did not allow other detained Canadian citizens that same access.
Speaking virtually to the Ryerson Democracy Forum at Ryerson University last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that it may still take “quite a long time” to resolve the cases of the two Canadians.
“The approach on consular cases like this one, unfortunately, takes quite a long time and we don’t always get to talk about what is going on,” he said. “Much of this is wrapped up in global diplomacy, quiet pressures.”
“Right now the situation seems very, very locked in. And the Chinese government has been very, very strong on its pushback against every time we point out that these two Canadians have been arbitrarily detained.”
— With files from the Canadian Press and Sean Boynton