GOLDSTEIN: Trudeau right about two Michaels, wrong about China

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While there are many reasons to be concerned about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s naive view of China as reflected in his government’s policies, his handling of the two Michaels case isn’t one of them.

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In this instance, the Trudeau government was caught in the cold war between two superpowers — China and the U.S. — because Canada honoured our extradition treaty with the U.S., our closest ally.

It was the right decision but given the conflict it created between China and the U.S., Canada on its own was never going to be able to free Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

Nor did Trudeau, despite criticism to the contrary, engage in hostage diplomacy prior to the deal worked out between the U.S. and China, allowing Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou and Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig to all return home simultaneously on Friday.

In fact, Trudeau rightly resisted approving a hostage swap throughout the 1,020 days Kovrig and Spavor were unjustly imprisoned in China.

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He held firm even though he was under pressure to do so from many sources, including senior Liberals no longer in politics who are well past their “best before” dates.

They had urged Trudeau to agree to a swap, primarily because they have business interests in China.

  1. Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is out on bail in Vancouver living a life of luxury and enjoying holiday visits from family amid the pandemic while Canada's Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor remain hostages imprisoned in China.

    LILLEY: Canada’s two Michaels finally freed from Chinese prison

  2. Michael Kovrig, left, and Michael Spavor.

    EDITORIAL: Shame on China for what they did

  3. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig, his wife Vina Nadjibulla and sister Ariana Botha walk following his arrival on a Canadian air force jet after his release from detention in China, at Pearson International Airport in Toronto September 25, 2021.

    Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor back in Canada after detention in China

Trudeau accurately said that while China’s government was engaging in hostage diplomacy — which China absurdly denied — Canada would allow the legal process to determine Meng’s fate, and thus Spavor’s and Kovrig’s.

In the end, that’s what happened.

U.S. justice officials worked out a deferred prosecution agreement with Meng’s lawyers — with which Canadians are familiar given Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin scandal — allowing Meng, Spavor and Kovrig to return home.

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Working in Canada’s favour were U.S. President Joe Biden’s pledge to help free Spavor and Kovrig — saying human beings are not “bargaining chips” — in concert with international pressure Canada marshalled against China for essentially kidnapping, incarcerating and convicting the pair on absurd charges of spying in China’s kangaroo court system.

Friday’s events freeing Meng, Spavor and Kovrig were further proof, as if any more was needed, that despite China’s denials, the cases were related.

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China’s persecution of Kovrig and Spavor was in retaliation for Canadian authorities arresting Meng at the Vancouver airport on Dec. 1, 2018.

Canada’s reason for doing so was an extradition request from the U.S., where she was wanted on fraud charges.

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The deal worked out between the U.S. and China was especially welcome given the amount of time it was taking for Meng’s glacially slow extradition trial to arrive at a verdict, which was still months away, even though all the evidence had been heard.

What is concerning about Trudeau’s dealings with China is not his conduct in the Meng case but on such related issues as his refusal, to this point, to ban Huawei, the company she works for, from participating in the development of Canada’s 5G network due to security concerns.

That has damaged relations with our closest allies — the U.S., U.K and Australia — who have already done so and may be a reason Canada was excluded from their recent security and intelligence pact to rein in China’s power.

Then there was Trudeau’s bizarre initiative to have a Chinese company develop a COVID-19 vaccine for Canadians, which only fell through because China decided to kill it, plus Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s shocking declaration that China isn’t our adversary at a security conference in 2019.

lgoldstein@postmedia.com

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