Two Canadians, who were detained in China for spying, were set free over ‘hostage diplomacy’ on Saturday. This marks the end of the three-year diplomatic row. The two detainees include Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. Spavor is known for introducing foreign business to North Korea that is subject to multiple sanctions due to harbouring of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

He is one of the few westerners to have met Kim Jong Un after the North Korean leader came to power back in 2011. He was seen in a picture sharing cigarettes and cocktails with Kim Jong in his yacht. Spavor used to live in the Chinese city of Dandong that bordered North Korea. China charged him with “espionage and illegally providing state secrets (to third parties)” back in 2018.

He told AFP that he was trying to bring enquiries from investors interested in market research and “face-to-face matchmaking with potential DPRK ministries and future partners” after the sanctions are lifted.

Michael Kovrig, on the other hand, used to work as a senior advisor for the think tank International Crisis group when he was detained in 2018. In May, 2019 he was accused of espionage but no verdict was passed during his trial. Kovrig’s employer said that he was based in Hong Kong and could not be seen as hostile to China as he was invited regularly by mainland Chinese officials.

A Chinese diplomat told the AFP that he was kept with 20 inmates and was allowed to go outside for 15 minutes per day during his imprisonment.