Saturday, March 09, 2024

Paying off the Two Michaels makes the whole incident look more suspicious

The Two Michaels were a cause célèbre in Canada for the best part of three years, since they were arrested and arbitrarily detailed by China in December 2018 in revenge for Canada's unwilling detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. 

At least that was the language we used, and the language that Justin Trudeau is still using today as details start to emerge about a multimillion dollar compensation settlement the government has struck with Michael Spavor (and possibly also with Michael Kovrig, that part seems uncertain). 

Trudeau insists that the fact that the government is paying big money out to Mr. Spavor should not be interpreted as meaning that either Spavor or Kovrig were actually engaged in espionage, but it has certainly muddied what once seemed to be pretty clear waters.

All this comes as Spavor is threatening to sue both the Canadian government and Mr. Kovrig for the intelligence on North Korea and China that Kovrig "unwittingly" shared with Spavor. So, at least Kovrig (who worked for a controversial intelligence unit at Global Affairs Canada) DOES seem to have been spying after all, just like China was claiming all the way through. And Spavor? Who knows? And who knows what "unwitting" sharing of sensitive intelligence actually means?

All of a sudden, China's "arbitrary detention" doesn't look quite so arbitrary, and the outrage with which Canadians met the news of the Two Michaels' unfair and illegal imprisonment is starting to look somewhat creaky. Maybe they were not just "pawns in geopolitical games", as the government has characterized them, after all. The fact that China "arbitrarily" released the Two Michaels in September 2021, straight after Canada was allowed by the USA to release Meng Wanzhou, certainly made China's conduct look suspiciously petty and spiteful, but now we're not really sure.

At the bottom of it all, the question remains: why is the Canadian government willing to pay an unspecified large sum of money to Mr. Spavor to avoid a court case? The Michaels spent a long time languishing in horrible Chinese penal accommodation (compared to Ms. Wahzhou's comfortable house arrest conditions), but should the government - and the Canadian taxpaying public - be paying them off for this? 

A cause that Canadians once righteously rallied around now looks that bit more tarnished and sullied.

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