This Christmas, thanks to COVID-19, millions of Canadians are facing the prospect of spending the holidays alone. The internet is rife with advice on how to make the most of solitude while keeping it together, and survive the holidays without seeing our families.
Now imagine that you’ve missed two Christmases with your loved ones, and every other day in between. You haven’t spent those days in the comfort of your home, either; you’ve spent them in a cramped cell, in a foreign country, where the lights have been kept on 24 hours a day and you have been repeatedly interrogated for hours on end.
That is the reality Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have endured, for the past two years, as prisoners in China.
The two Michaels, as they have become known, were arrested by Chinese state authorities nine days after the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wenzhou in Vancouver in December 2018. Meng was charged, on a U.S. warrant, with wire and bank fraud in relation to dealings that a Huawei subsidiary, Skycom, had with Iran, allegedly in violation of American sanctions. Spavor and Kovrig were accused of espionage, though the nature of the charges against the two, a businessman and a former diplomat, remain unspecified.
This was not, as the Chinese government ludicrously maintains, a coincidence. All three individuals are pawns in the defining geopolitical chess game of our age. However, unlike Meng, who has spent the past two years under house arrest in her B.C. mansion while armies of lawyers fight her extradition, the two Michaels have had no access to counsel, limited contact with the outside world, and have been subjected to severe human rights violations.