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Long-held Canadians back home

As part of prisoner swap, Huawei executive returns to China by The Associated. Press | September 26, 2021 at 5:19 a.m.
Michael Kovrig embraces his wife Vina Nadjibulla, right, after arriving 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)

TORONTO -- 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.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » arkansasonline.com/926meng/]

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 December of 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 accused Ottawa of arbitrary detention. The two Canadians were jailed for more than 1,000 days.

"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 of 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 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.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » arkansasonline.com/926kovrig/]

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 Xi 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.

"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," 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.

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."

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.

Gallery: China, Canada prisoner swap

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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 with committing fraud by misleading the HSBC bank about the company's business dealings in Iran.

It 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.

Information for this article was contributed by Eric Tucker, Jim Mustian and Jim Morris of The Associated Press.

Print Headline: Long-held Canadians back home

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