While Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou walks around her two Vancouver mansions under house arrest, the two Michaels reportedly live in cells with the lights on 24/7 and are interrogated thrice daily

EDMONTON — Next week will mark 500 days since Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig have been imprisoned by the Chinese regime, widely seen as a response to Canada’s detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who’s wanted in the United States.
The seizure of Kovrig and Spavor in December 2018, and the laying of espionage charges in May 2019, has badly damaged Canada-China relations, led to high-profile drama in elite Liberal circles in Canada, and has placed Canada in the middle of tensions between Chinese strongman Xi Jinping, and U.S. President Donald Trump.
All this is, as well, is wrapped up in Huawei’s attempted expansion of a 5G cellular network that’s of concern to Western intelligence officials in the United States, New Zealand and Australia. Just this week, Tory members of Parliament in the United Kingdom moved to scuttle Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan for Huawei to build Britain’s 5G network.
Kovrig, a former diplomat who was working with the International Crisis Group, and Spavor, an entrepreneur, each had their last consular visits in mid-January. Access to prisons was suspended in late January because of the COVID-19 outbreak, reported the South China Morning Post.
Previously, they’d been receiving monthly visits from Canadian consular officials in China. The South China Morning Post reported American diplomats had been able to telephone detained U.S. citizens — it’s unknown if Canadian officials have had similar success.
“The position of the Trudeau government … has been no escalation, but not backing down,” said Stephanie Carvin, an international relations professor at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. “A lot of people think that’s insufficient in the case of the two Michaels.”
In early April, at a daily briefing at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, responded to a question about the state of the two men : “We continue to engage them (with) consular support on an ongoing basis. And I will ensure that there is a further update in the coming days.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Friday, April 17, 2020.Sean Kilpatrick /
Two weeks later, that update has not come.
“He was saying that about a lot of things at that time, but that’s a very specific thing to say you have information coming out on,” said Carvin. “So far, there has been milquetoast statements about the situation.”
On Saturday, the National Post asked for an update  on Kovrig and Spavor’s detainment from the Prime Minister’s Office and from François-Philippe Champagne, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Prime Minister’s Office didn’t respond, but, in an emailed statement, Adam Austen, Champagne’s deputy director of communications, said “creative consular options” are being explored to speak to the two men.
Austen said Champagne had “recently” raised the issue with his Chinese counterpart, but gave no further updates on the men or the situation, citing privacy rules. Champagne’s office refused an interview with the minister.
“The Canadian government is seized with these cases and will continue to raise them with the Chinese government at every appropriate opportunity,” the statement says.
In late March, as the COVID-19 outbreak swept across Canada and around the world, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa announced that they were letting Kovrig speak on the phone with his father, who’s ill, and were feeding the men better because of the outbreak.
At the time, the Chinese embassy claimed it was upping the frequency of letters and parcels to the two men  “as interim arrangements” to ensure continuing contact with Canadian diplomats in China.
Experts say Ottawa shouldnt expect Beijing to do it any favours and free Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in return for medical co-operation on the coronavirus. Kovrig (left) and Spavor are shown in these 2018 images taken from video. THE CANADIAN PRESS/APTHE ASSOCIATED PRESS
On Saturday — as the 500th day approaches — the South China Morning Post reported, citing sources, that Kovrig, who’s being held in Beijing, is healthy and receiving letters from his family. Spavor’s health and location is unknown, though he’s believed to be imprisoned in Liaoning province in northeastern province.
Neither man, who are reportedly being held in solitary confinement, where the lights are never turned off and are questioned thrice daily, have been allowed contact with family or lawyers.
Meanwhile, Meng has spent her time in detention living in not one, but two multi-million-dollar Vancouver mansions. The first has six bedrooms and five bathrooms; the second has seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms.
According to Reuters, in a letter to Huawei employees while detained in one of Canada’s poshest neighbourhoods, Meng wrote: “Despite being physically restricted to a very limited space during my time in Vancouver, my inner self has never felt so colourful and vast.”
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her Vancouver home to go to her extradition hearing in British Columbia Supreme Court on January 22, 2020 in Vancouver, British Columbia.DON MACKINNON/AFP via Getty Images
The detention of the two men has consistently caused political drama in Canada and has been seized on by the Conservative opposition as evidence of Trudeau’s weakness on China. High-profile Liberals, such as former prime minister Jean Chrétien, and his deputy prime minister John Manley, have argued there should be a prisoner swap — Meng for the two men.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China, has led to a growing chorus of direct and harsh criticism of the Asian nation from around the world, especially from  countries, such as Sweden and Australia, who have also had citizens “disappeared” by the Chinese state.
“I think there’s growing concerns about China’s behaviour,” said Carvin.
“We don’t have the luxury of engaging in performative diplomacy when lives are on the line, we have to do what’s most pragmatic,” said Carvin.
There are more than 100 Canadians detained in Chinese prisons, including Kovrig and Spavor. Canadian Huseyin Celil, a Uighur activist, was nabbed in Uzbekistan in 2006 and given over to the Chinese in 2007. Two Canadians face death sentences in China: Robert Schellenberg, whose 15-year prison sentence was upgraded to the death penalty for being “too lenient” for drug smuggling; and Fan Wei, who was detained in 2012, but sentenced to death last April.
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