WARMINGTON: Blockbuster two-for-one trade between China and Canada

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Two Michaels in exchange for one Meng!

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Just like that, after three year of haggling over such a transaction, the trade between China and Canada happened.

Finally! Both countries rejoiced!

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor at the Calgary Airport Saturday morning after the duo — released after more than 1,000 days in a Chinese prison — touched-down on Canadian soil after an all-night flight.

In China, at the Shenzhen Baoan International Airport, a red carpet and red roses greeted Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on Saturday morning.

Wearing a red designer dress and looking more like a head of state returning from a foreign trip than a person released from house arrest, Meng waved from the top of the stairs of the Air China plane to an adoring large crowd carrying red flags — reminiscent of January 2020 when reporter Bob Mackin of The Breaker News in Vancouver exposed her supporters outside court were paid actors.

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“Without a strong motherland, I wouldn’t have my freedom today,” declared the woman nicknamed the Huawei Princess.

This screengrab made from video released by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV shows Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou waving as she steps out of the plane upon arrival following her release, in Shenzhen in China's southern Guangdong province on Sept. 25, 2021.
This screengrab made from video released by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV shows Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou waving as she steps out of the plane upon arrival following her release, in Shenzhen in China’s southern Guangdong province on Sept. 25, 2021. Photo by screengrab /AFP/CHINA CENTRAL TELEVISION

Meanwhile, the homecoming was not as bright or loud for the two Michaels. But it was just as emotional as they received hugs from family and from Trudeau too.

“Welcome home, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” Trudeau tweeted. “You’ve shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance. Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you.”

Soon after dropping off Spavor in Calgary, Kovrig was back on the Challenger jet bound for Toronto where he was met by local reporters at the SkyService private terminal — all wondering how he was feeling.

“It’s wonderfully fantastic to be back home in Canada,” he said. “I’m so grateful for everybody who worked so hard to bring both of us back home.”

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  1. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor back to Canada at Calgary airport Saturday morning.

    GOLDSTEIN: Trudeau right about two Michaels, wrong about China

  2. 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

  3. Kevin Garratt, a Canadian Christian activist who was arrested in 2014 and held captive in a Chinese prison for 775 days before being allowed to return to Canada, is seen here on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network)

    WARMINGTON: Shining a light on China’s wrongful detention of Canadians

Once the U.S. government struck a deferred prosecution agreement with Meng on Friday, the two Michaels were no longer needed as leverage.

“So happy they are home,” said Kevin Garratt, who himself spent 775 days in a Chinese prison in similar circumstances because China wanted Su Bin, held in Canada on cyber espionage charges, released.

Once he was, Garratt and his wife Julia were on their way home. Like the Michaels, they were also charged with espionage.

“We were never spies,” said Garratt.

He and his wife were Christian missionaries trying to help the people in China. The two Michaels were law-abiding businessmen who became prisoners of convenience.

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We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

“The two Michaels were just taken as people to trade,” Garratt said in a 2019 column on their journey, which is also explained in their book Two Tears in the Window. “It’s about her (Meng) arrest … they are pawns in the game, as were we.”

And once again this is proof that China nabbing Canadians on phony spying charges — to complicate the prosecution of one of their citizens here — works. The Michaels were held as hostages for ransom and in the end that ransom was paid.

So what does Canada do about it now? Can it do anything?

Will it do any future business with Huawei? Will Canada boycott the upcoming winter Olympics in Beijing? Perhaps in the weeks ahead such moves will be debated — perhaps not.

After nearly three years of detention in China, Michael Kovrig embraces his wife Vina Nadjibulla after arriving at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.
After nearly three years of detention in China, Michael Kovrig embraces his wife Vina Nadjibulla after arriving at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. Photo by Frank Gunn /The Canadian Press

But on this Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, the focus was not so much on future relations with communist China but on celebrating the end of a difficult saga of two Canadians.

While Meng was ordered under a soft house arrest in a Vancouver mansion with an electronic ankle bracelet but free to shop and dine, the two Michaels were stuck in three-metre cells with no windows and a hole for a toilet.

With his wife Vina Nadjibulla by his side after a lengthy embrace on the tarmac, Kovrig told Toronto media he will have more to say later.

Meanwhile, the two Michaels were not mentioned in China’s coverage of Meng’s heroic return.

jwarmington@postmedia.com

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