Robert Fife and Steven Chase report on the almost simultaneous release of two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, from prison in China, and Meng Wanzhou from home detention in Canada. They note that while the two Michaels have always claimed to be innocent of any wrongdoing, Ms. Meng acknowledged that she made untrue statements about her business (Huawei), leading to her detention in Canada at the request of the United States.

Getting Started

Introduction to the article (perhaps by having everyone read it)

Nearly three years ago, at the request of the United States, Meng Wanzhou, a highly-placed executive with the Huawei corporation, was detained in Vancouver on fraud charges, pending extradition to the US to stand trial. Canadian authorities assumed that the concurrent imprisonment of two Chinese-detained Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, was effectively a hostage-taking, and resisted pressure to release Meng Wanzhou while her case was before Canadian courts. After years of diplomatic wrangling and an apology by Ms. Meng—not an admission of guilt—she and the two Michaels were released nearly simultaneously in September, indicating the hostage scenario had been, in fact, an apt explanation of China’s strategy.

Canada-China relations suffered considerably from this. Students can benefit from a short exercise in which they learn the basics about the three-year affair that was played out continuously in the news and social media over the past three years.

Subject Area(s) covered

Social studies, current events

New Terms to explain

Meng Wanzhou, Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig, Huawei, Tiananmen Square, retaliation, extradition, fraud, espionage

Materials Needed

Access to the article, the Internet.

Study and Discussion Activity

Key things students can learn from this lesson

  1. The simplified story of Meng Wanzhou and why she was in the news for so long;
  2. The story of “the two Michaels” and how they were connected to Ms Meng;
  3. The way the impasse between Canada and China was resolved.

Action (here’s how we’ll do it)

NOTE: Students who identify as being of Chinese origin or culture may well bring unique perspectives to this exercise. Invite them to personalize their responses to the questions below, if they care to.

In this simple reading comprehension exercise below. students can work alone or in groups to answer the questions or respond to the prompts.

Two suggested links:

Work Sheet

Read the attached article and use the assigned Internet links to complete the following:

  • Excerpt:  “They have shown determination, grace and resilience every step of the way. They have been an inspiration to all of us…. They have been through an extremely difficult ordeal.”  Who said this? Who was being referred to? What was the nature of their ordeal?
  • Who served a detention in a “$13.5-million Vancouver home”?
    • How did this person come to be held in Canada? What charges were involved, and which government brought these charges?
  • What is the relationship between Meng Wanzhou and the founder of Huawei?
    • What kind of business does Huawei do? What are some of its products?
    • Where does Huawei rank in terms of corporate research and development in Canada?
  • Who had to wear an ankle bracelet while in detention? What is the purpose of the bracelet?
  • The Chinese found Mr. Spavor guilty of which crime? What sentence was he given?

What was the verdict for Mr. Kovrig, who was charged with the same crime?

  • China accused Canada of acting as a puppet to which country?

What is the explanation for Canada’s cooperation with this country?

  • Who thanked the Canadian government for upholding the rule of law?
  • Why is December, 2018, a significant date in this story?
  • What is the significance of the date, Dec 1, 2022?
  • What happened in 1989 at Tiananmen Square in China that soured relations with Canada and much of the rest of the world?
  • Who said, “One gets the sense that they’ve come up short of their original objectives”? Who is being referred to in this quote?
  • What role did the Biden Administration play in the resolution of this story?
  • Who is Dominic Barton and what was his role in this story?
    • Where did Mr. Barton spend three weeks this past spring and for what purpose?
  • Who said, “Thank you, my lady,” to whom, and for what was this person extending thanks?

Consolidation of Learning

  • Students share and discuss their work with each other.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria

Students can:

  1. In simple terms, explain the story of Meng Wanzhou and why she was in the news for so long;
  2. Describe “the two Michaels,” the context of their stories, and how they were connected to Ms Meng;
  3. Describe the way the impasse between Canada and China was resolved.

Confirming Activities

  • Students’ reports confirm their understanding of the general story around the two Michaels, Meng Wuanzhou and Huawei.

Helpful Internet Searches

Activities to do together

  • Note various events and centres that feature Huawei logos or advertising;
  • Examine products in your home to see how many are manufactured in China;
  • If you know Chinese Canadians, ask how they felt about the release of Meng Wanzhou.