Liberal MP allegedly advised Chinese official to hold off on freeing Two Michaels: Report

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A Liberal MP at the centre of China’s election influence allegations privately advised a Chinese diplomat in 2021 that Beijing would be wise to hold off on freeing two Canadian businessmen, known as the Two Michaels, according to Global News.

The news outlet, which cited two national security sources, reported Liberal MP Han Dong allegedly suggested to Han Tao, China’s consul general in Toronto, in February 2021 that if China released Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, it would benefit the Conservatives.

After being imprisoned for 1,020 days, while accused of espionage, Spavor and Kovrig boarded a plane bound for Canada in late September 2021. Their return to Canada marked the end to a tense international standoff in which Canada had held Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou for a U.S. extradition case.

It was widely believed that the two men were jailed as payback for Canada’s decision to detain Meng. As Spavor and Kovrig took off for Canada, Meng was heading back to China from Vancouver.

Global reported that Dong, who represents the riding of Don Valley North, also allegedly urged Beijing to make it look like some progress had been made in freeing the Two Michaels to help the governing Liberals, who were facing public outrage over China’s poor treatment of Spavor and Kovrig.

In an emailed statement, Dong said while he had a discussion with the consul general, he didn’t advise China to hold off on releasing Kovrig and Spavor from custody, according to Global.

Citing the email, the news outlet quoted Dong as saying: “I raised the status of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and called for their immediate release.”

According to Global, he added: “At every opportunity before they returned home, I adamantly demanded their release to Canada without delay. Any suggestions otherwise are false and are attempts to mislead you and your readers, and slander me.”

The Prime Minister’s Office, meanwhile, said it only became aware of the controversy when questioned by Global.

A PMO spokesperson suggested Dong was not acting on behalf of the government, saying the MP was never used as a “back channel,” according to Global.

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