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Richmond human rights advocate honoured for fighting to free two Canadians in China

A Richmondite hopes he could inspire other Canadians to step up to join the fight for freedom of the two Michaels who are detained in China.

A Richmond human rights activist who spent the past two years advocating for the release of two Canadians detained in China has received an award from the Rotary Club of Richmond.

Louis Huang received the Paul Harris Fellow recognition recently for his advocacy over the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were taken into Chinese custody in December 2018 in a move widely regarded as retaliation for the arrest of Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou.

On Aug. 11, a Chinese court sentenced Canadian businessman Spavor to 11 years in prison. 

Huang, a member of Vancouver Chinese Human Rights Watch which has been critical of the Chinese government, said this “shocking decision should be seen as a retaliation against Canada for its arrest of Huawei telecoms executive Meng Wanzhou.”

“Spavor’s trial was held in March, but the Chinese court didn’t release the judgment until now when the extradition hearing of Meng Wanzhou entered a crucial stage in Canada. So this is another example of hostage diplomacy,” said Huang. 

“I am extremely concerned about our two Michaels’ condition in China. As a Canadian, I will keep speaking up for them as long as they are still imprisoned in China. The battle for freeing two detained Canadians will never end,” Huang continued. 

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau launched a federal election campaign on the weekend, Huang stressed that the newly elected government should stay away from the Chinese government.

Meanwhile, Huang hopes the Rotary recognition could inspire other Canadians to step up to join the fight for the freedom of the two Michaels.

“The recognition is like the icing on the cake to encourage me to keep going, but compared with lots of people who are advocating for democracy (in) China, I didn’t do that much,” said Huang.

The Paul Harris Fellow recognition was established in 1947 to show appreciation for people who made substantial contributions. 

Many other notable figures have been named Paul Harris Fellows, including U.S. President Jimmy Carter, U.S. astronaut Jim Lovell and American virologist and medical researcher Jonas Salk, according to the Rotary Club’s website.