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China frees Canadians after Huawei boss released: What you need to know

Michael Kovrig (r) and Michael Spavor have been held since 2018/ picture courtesy:BBC

Two Canadians detained by China for nearly three years have been released, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday night.

Former diplomat Kovrig and businessman Spavor had been held in China since late 2018. They were arrested on espionage charges in China shortly after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a US warrant related to the company's business dealings in Iran. However, China has consistently denied that the cases were in any way connected.

Meng left Canada on Friday, Vancouver to Shenzhen, after reaching an agreement with US prosecutors. Hours later it was announced that Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, accused of espionage by China in the same year, were flying home to Canada.

Before her release, Ms Meng - the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the billionaire founder of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei - admitted misleading US investigators about Huawei's business dealings in Iran. Her company misled HSBC bank about the company's relationship with an Iranian subsidiary, Skycom, which the US alleges would have violated US sanctions against Iran.

She spent three years under house arrest in Canada while fighting extradition to the United States. She was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver in December 2018 and nine days later, Spavor and Kovrig were detained in China.

After Trudeau's announcement Friday, Kovrig's employer, think tank International Crisis Group, welcomed the news.

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