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China Frees 2 Canadians After Canada Releases Huawei Executive

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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accompanied by Foreign Minister Marc Garneau, holds a press conference as he tells reporters that two Canadian citizens who were detained by Beijing have left Chinese airspace, in Ottawa, Sept. 24, 2021.

Three individuals in a global hostage diplomacy case returned to their home countries of Canada and China Saturday after being freed late Friday.

Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were welcomed home by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after their plane landed in Calgary, Alberta, early Saturday.

They were arrested in 2018 in China, less than two weeks after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada on a U.S. extradition request. The three were held for more than 1,000 days.

Meng’s flight to China landed minutes after Spavor and Kovrig arrived in Canada. Before Meng’s arrival, her pending return was the main news development on China Central Television’s midday news report, while Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reposted on social media a report about her departure from Canada that also included a “Welcome home” message.

At a hastily arranged news conference late Friday, Trudeau said, “for the past 1,000 days” Spavor and Kovrig “have shown strength, perseverance, resilience and grace.”

Hours earlier, Meng who had remained under house arrest in Canada, reached a deal with the U.S. Justice Department, allowing her to go home. The U.S. accuses her of fraud in her transactions with banks on behalf of Huawei.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, “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.”

Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, worked for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, that describes itself on its website as “an independent organization working to prevent wars and shape policies that will build a more peaceful world.”

Comfort Ero, the Crisis Group interim vice president, said in a statement, "The day we have been waiting for 1,020 days has finally arrived. Michael Kovrig is free … welcome home!”

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