Canadian businessman Michael Spavor called his country’s embassy in Beijing from an airport in northeast China. Authorities were questioning him after he was prevented from boarding a flight outside of China.
Concern at the embassy over the call turned to alarm when officials learned that another Canadian had been detained in Beijing that day, on December 10, 2018, according to people familiar with the matter. This time, it was former diplomat Michael Kovrig.
Since then, the two men have been thrust into the middle of a high-risk confrontation between Canada, the United States and China, where they have been arrested and charged with espionage. Recently, hope had emerged among family members and supporters that the men could be released if separate talks to settle the criminal charges against Meng Wanzhou, an executive at China’s Huawei Technologies Co., bore fruit. Canada has accused China of detaining the two men in retaliation for the arrest of Ms Meng in an extradition request from the United States.
With both sides delving too deep into the lawsuits to save them, those discussions stalled and are now dormant, according to people familiar with the matter. The Biden administration could revisit the talks in the coming months, the people said, but the timing of such a move is unclear. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment.
Vice President Kamala Harris told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a phone call earlier this month that the United States would do everything possible to free the two men.