Two detained Canadians return home from China after Huawei's Meng Wanzhou allowed to leave Canada

25 September 2021, 01:32 | Updated: 25 September 2021, 18:57

Two Canadians have returned home from China after being released from prison where they were held on alleged spying charges.

The decision by Chinese authorities comes hours after Huawei's chief financial officer reached a deal with US prosecutors that allowed her to leave Canada and go back to China.

Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the company's founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 and had been held in the country since then.

Her arrest followed an extradition warrant issued by the US for a range of charges relating to alleged breaches of sanctions against Iran.

But the deal means the US Department of Justice will drop its request to extradite her to the US and fraud charges against her will be dismissed in December 2022 - exactly four years after her arrest.

Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested in China in December 2018 shortly after Canada arrested Meng - an action many countries labelled "hostage politics".

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeted the pair as they landed at an airport in Calgary and was seen hugging Mr Kovrig.

He called a news conference on Friday to announce the release of Kovrig and Spavor about an hour after Meng's plane left Canada for China.

Mr Kovrig's employer, the International Crisis Group think tank, thanked the Canadian government for securing his release, adding: "We're relieved the government of China has righted this wrong."

Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China and Mr Kovrig's former boss, said China's reputation has been "severely tarnished".

"Clearly, the Chinese were so eager to get Meng back that they jettisoned all pretensions that the two Michaels had been arrested for good reasons," he said.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken welcomed China's decision to release Mr Kovrig and Mr Spavor after their "arbitrary detention".

The former Huawei chief financial officer's deal with US prosecutors depends on her complying with certain conditions, including accepting responsibility for misrepresenting her company's business dealings in Iran.

Meng's defence lawyer Michelle Levin said she expected her to adhere to the conditions, adding: "We're very pleased that in the meantime she can go home to her family".

The details were confirmed during a court hearing, with Meng appearing via video from the Vancouver mansion where she was bailed after her arrest.

The court revoked all bail conditions, and Meng left for China shortly afterwards.

Before she left, Meng said: "Over the last three years my life has been turned upside down.

"It was a disruptive time for me as a mother, a wife and as a company executive.

"But I believe every cloud has a silver lining. It really was an invaluable experience in my life.

"I will never forget all the good wishes I received."