Two Canadians imprisoned by China have been released, Prime Minister Trudeau says
“These two men have gone 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,” said Trudeau at a late evening news conference in Ottawa.
Trudeau would not discuss details about how their release came about but he thanked Canadian allies for their support.
Earlier Friday, the United States Department of Justice and Meng reached an agreement to defer prosecution of US charges against her until late 2022, after which point the charges could be dropped.
Meng left Canada Friday on a flight for China chartered by the Chinese government, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
In a lengthy post on her WeChat account Saturday, Meng described tearing up as her flight from Vancouver to Shenzhen crossed the North Pole and praised China’s ruling Communist Party. A CNN source has seen the post which is not open to be publicly viewed.
“As we get closer to home, I feel increasingly emotional, with tears welling up in my eyes. Under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, our motherland is moving toward prosperity. Without this strong motherland, I wouldn’t have my freedom today,” she wrote. “I thank my beloved motherland, and I thank the Party and the government … for shining a light during my darkest hours and guiding me in my long journey home.”
Meng appeared virtually in a court in Brooklyn, New York, and pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud.
However, as part of the deal, Meng confirmed the statement of facts in the deferred prosecution agreement are true. Those facts include that she misrepresented Huawei’s relationship with Skycom to HSBC, according to court documents. If she says or implies otherwise, it could violate the terms of the deal and result in her prosecution.
Three-year legal saga
Meng was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver in December 2018. Nine days later, Spavor and Kovrig were detained in China — a move widely interpreted as political retaliation for her arrest.
Huawei and Meng’s team previously denied the US allegations, saying that HSBC executives knew of Huawei’s relationships with Skycom. They also claimed the US case — which was filed amid former President Donald Trump’s trade war with China — was politically motivated.
After Trudeau’s announcement Friday, Kovrig’s employer, think tank International Crisis Group, welcomed the news.
“The day we have been waiting for 1,020 days has finally arrived. Michael Kovrig is free,” interim vice president Comfort Ero said. “To Beijing: We welcome this most just decision. To Ottawa: Thank you for your steadfast support for our colleague. To the United States: Thank you for your willingness to support an ally and our colleague. To the inimitable, indefatigable, and inspiring Michael Kovrig, welcome home!”
CNN’s Steven Jiang, Clare Duffy, Evan Perez, Nectar Gan, Jessie Yeung and Steve George contributed reporting.