US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that the alleged taking of prisoners for political purposes was “totally unacceptable” after China released two Canadians jailed for nearly three years amid a dispute.

Michael Kovrig Michael Spavor
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. File photo: Twitter.

Ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor had been seized days after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver’s airport on a US warrant in December 2018.

Despite Beijing’s insistence that the cases were not connected, the Canadians as well as a US brother and sister who had faced an exit ban were allowed to leave after Meng last week reached a plea agreement with US prosecutors and returned triumphantly to China.

“We’re very glad to see that the two Michaels have been able to return home as well, certainly, as (have) our own American citizens,” Blinken told reporters in Pittsburgh where he was taking part in US-EU trade talks.

“But there’s a larger problem that remains. And it’s not just China — other countries are engaged in this practice of arbitrarily detaining the citizens of other countries for political purposes. And that should be totally unacceptable.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: US Gov via Flickr.

The jailing of the Canadians had caused a chill in the expatriate business community in China, which had long been accustomed to making money in the billion-plus country without worrying about political tensions between Beijing and the West.

Meng wanzhou returns to china shenzhen
Meng Wanzhou. Photo: CCTV screenshot.

Meng, whose case had raised passions within the Chinese public, had been sought by Washington for allegedly violating unilateral US sanctions on Iran.

US prosecutors settled for Meng agreeing to a statement of facts in the case and said they would drop charges in 2022 if she abides by terms of the agreement.

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