(Bloomberg) -- Michael Kovrig, free at home after spending nearly three years jailed in China, said he looked forward to quietly resuming his life in Canada -- first, with some rest.
“I’m running on about two hours of sleep in the last 24-plus hours, so I don’t have any exciting plans just yet,” Kovrig told Global News in an interview on the front porch of his sister’s home in Toronto, shortly after his return. But in time, he said he looked forward to “reconnecting with friends and family, and finally getting out and seeing all the beauty of Canada.”
The former diplomat, who appeared in good health, was working as an analyst with an international think tank in China when he was detained in December 2018 -- along with fellow Canadian Michael Spavor -- within days of Canada arresting Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition request. The two men were released Friday shortly after Meng boarded a plane home to China after striking a deal with the U.S. to resolve the criminal charges against her.
While the long-running diplomatic crisis has been resolved, Canada’s relationship with China has not, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau indicated Saturday.
“It’s an eyes-wide-open policy,” Garneau told Global News in a separate interview. “We’re going to continue to challenge China as we move forward.”
He dodged a question on whether Canada would consider imposing sanctions on China for jailing Spavor and Kovrig, noting the country has already taken a tough line over the treatment of its Uighur Muslims. When asked whether Canada may ban Huawei from 5G wireless communications networks, he said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government will make a decision when it’s ready, without elaborating.
In a separate interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Garneau said Canada learned a deal for Meng’s release was likely about two weeks ago. “The fact that a deferred prosecution agreement proposal had been arrived at between the Department of Justice, which operates independently, and Huawei lawyers, and that Meng Wanzhou was ready to sign it and that it seemed acceptable to the Department of Justice, that sort of unlocked the whole process and things happened extremely rapidly after that.”
In China, Kovrig and Spavor were initially taken to secret jails, placed in solitary confinement, and interrogated for hours a day under lights that were never turned off. Nearly 600 days into his confinement, Kovrig could hold a plank position for 20 minutes and walked 7,000 steps a day in a small, windowless concrete cell to maintain his physical health and mental sanity. Spavor’s trial in March lasted just two hours before he was sentenced to 11 years for spying.
“Knowing that so many people knew about the situation, cared about the situation, really helped us get through a very difficult time,” Kovrig said, sitting between his wife and sister; the former led efforts to secure his release. “I just want to say thank you very much to all Canadians for the enormous support and all of the effort that so many people have made to help bring Michael Spavor and me home.”
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