In one of Michael Kovrig’s letters, the former Canadian diplomat describes life in a Chinese prison as a "gray, grinding monotony.” Confined to a windowless concrete cell, ten feet square, his incarceration has also been, at times, deeply traumatic.

It’s taken all his strength not to crumble. COVID-19, his wife believes, may be pushing that resolve to its limits. Kovrig has been detained for 576 days with no end in sight, an apparent pawn in a geopolitical battle over Huawei Technologies Co. and the fate of its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou. "The confinement and isolation that he was feeling has just been compounded by the pandemic and the complete cutting of visits and letters and the rest,” Vina Nadjibulla said in an interview in Toronto. "He has been stoic, but I know there are cracks.”

Kovrig and Canadian businessman Michael Spavor were detained in China in December 2018, days after Canada arrested Meng at the request of U.S. authorities. Charged last month with espionage — accusations their associates say are ludicrous — the two men are being used as bargaining chips to try to win Meng’s freedom, many say, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.