Two Canadians detained in China on espionage were released from prison on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, hours after the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co. was allowed to return home.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor had been detained shortly after Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei's founder Ren Zhengfei, in Vancouver in December 2018.

Michael Kovrig. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Photo from the International Crisis Group's website)(Kyodo)
Photo taken in January 2014 shows Michael Spavor. (Kyodo)

The detention of the two Canadians had been regarded as China's retaliation for Meng's arrest. She had been detained by Ottawa as requested by Washington on U.S. fraud charges linked to an alleged breach of sanctions on Iran.

Meng has already left Vancouver and the two Canadians have also flown out of China, according to media reports. Their detention became one of the sources of tension between Beijing and Washington as well as Canada.

Many democratic nations criticized China's action as "hostage politics."

The U.S. Justice Department said Friday that Meng admitted to fraud charges in a deal that will permit her to return to China around three years after she was detained in Canada.

Making a remote appearance from Canada for proceedings of a federal district court in New York, Meng "entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and was arraigned on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud and wire fraud," the department said in a press release.

Meanwhile, Trudeau was quoted by media as saying the two Canadian 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."

In June 2020, Chinese authorities said Kovrig and Spavor had been indicted for spying in China to obtain state secrets and intelligence.

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