Spavor's fate, observers say, could hinge on the results of a court case unfolding on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, as a Canadian judge mulls over whether to proceed with the extradition of a Chinese tech executive wanted by the United States for fraud charges related to alleged Iran sanction violations.
Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver in December 2018. Nine days later, Spavor and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were detained in China — a move widely interpreted as political retaliation for Meng's arrest.
"China has been practicing hostage diplomacy for a long time, and even more so under President Xi Jinping. It's a way of trying to put pressure on the Canadian authorities to release Meng Wanzhou and dismiss the extradition case," said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, chair professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University.