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A new administration in the US could offer glimmer of hope for two 'Michaels' detained in China

Last Updated Nov 6, 2020 at 11:04 pm PDT

FILE: Michael Kovrig (left) and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians detained in China. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP

A former Canadian ambassador says a new president might decide to drop charges against Meng Wanzhou

Guy St. Jacques says a new face in the White House might decide to pursue Huawei instead and accept a plea deal

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A Joe Biden win of the White House might be cause for optimism for two Canadians detained in Chinese jails.

A former ambassador says a new administration might have a different approach to dealing with the Meng Wanzhou saga.

“There might be a small hope that Joe Biden, if he becomes the next president, might drop the charges against Mrs. Meng,” says Guy St. Jacques, who was Canada’s ambassador to China between 2012 and 2016.

Meng is the chief financial officer of Huawei, and both she and the company are charged with fraud for allegedly violating US sanctions against Iran. She was arrested while making a stopover at YVR in December of 2018. She is now under house arrest in one of her Vancouver mansions.

Days after her arrest, China arrested Canadians Michael Spavor, a businessman, and Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat. Eighteen months after their detention, they were both charged with spying.

St. Jacques believes the Canadian government has a new opportunity to convince the US to change its approach in going after the executive.

“Maybe the Canadian government can try to convince the US to drop the charges against Mrs. Meng and instead to go after Huawei itself. It then would be up to Huawei to decide whether it wants to pursue a plea bargain,” explains St. Jacques.

It’s been done before. Chinese tech firm ZTE settled a court case with the US for breaking sanctions and selling electronics to Iran back in 2017 for a sum of $1.19 billion US.

“They agreed to pay a fine and so that would be something that could help get our two Michaels out of jail.”

He admits, though, the chances of that happening, in this case, are not that great.

“I would assign maybe a 20 or 30 per cent probability that Biden would want to be nice to Canada and do that. But we have to assume the charges against Mrs. Meng are very serious and they will want to proceed with the extradition.”

Nevertheless, he says Canada needs to complain to the UN to say China is not abiding by international conventions to allow the two men consular visits every month.

“We should protest how this is how it’s being handled by China. Under the Vienna Convention and our own bilateral agreement, China is supposed to allow monthly consular visits. Because they haven’t been abiding by this, it’s a breach of their responsibility.”

Kovrig and Spavor were granted virtual meetings with Canada’s current ambassador last month, but both men had gone since January without having any access.

Meantime, Meng’s extradition proceedings continue. Just last week, Huawei sued the US government, accusing it of concealing its true motivation for pursuing Meng.