Two Canadians detained in China for over two years on spying charges were allowed to call their families out of “humanitarian considerations” over Christmas, Beijing said on Thursday.
Relations between Beijing and Ottawa have spiraled since China detained former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor in 2018 -- days after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on fraud charges.
While languishing in detention, the pair have had virtually no contact with the outside world. Virtual consular visits only resumed in October after a nine-month hiatus which authorities said was due to the coronavirus.
“The Chinese authorities in charge of the case agreed to allow Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor to have phone calls with their family during the Christmas holiday in light of humanitarian considerations,” said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a routine briefing.
“The two men and their families expressed their deep gratitude for this.”
Charges against the two Canadians -- who have been accused of espionage -- are widely perceived in the West as retaliation for Meng’s arrest, although China has denied this.
Beijing has insisted their detentions are lawful, while calling Meng’s case “a purely political incident.”
Meng was released on bail with conditions that include a curfew in her Vancouver mansion and that she wear a GPS monitoring ankle bracelet.
On Thursday, Canadian officials confirmed her husband and two children were allowed to join her late last year, granted travel exemptions to enter Canada despite Covid-19 restrictions.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US was in talks with Huawei over possibly allowing Meng to return to China if she admits to some of the charges.
The deal could also pave the way for the release of the two Canadians, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.
Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea pose greatest cyber threat to Canada: ReportState-sponsored programs from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea pose the greatest high-tech threats to Canada, a report from the nation’s authority ... World News
Canada confident President-elect Biden will pressure China on foreign detaineesCanada is sure the US administration of President-elect Joe Biden will reinforce the message to China that its policy of arbitrarily detaining foreign ... World News
Trudeau: Canada won't stop calling for human rights in ChinaCanadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday his government will not stop standing up for human rights in China.On Thursday, the Chinese ... World News
Coronavirus: China says halt of Canada vaccine partnership unrelated to diplomacyChina said on Thursday that the end to a partnership on a coronavirus vaccine between Chinese firm CanSino Biologics and Canada is unrelated to ... Coronavirus
China rebukes Canada over criticism of Hong Kong security law amid tense relationsChina fired back at Canada on Saturday for criticizing Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong, the second rebuke in a week that has added to ... World News
Canada to US: Don’t sign China deal until Canadians releasedCanadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday he has asked the United States to hold off on any final trade agreement with China until two ... World News