Canada fired its Chinese ambassador after his 'mind-boggling' remarks on the arrest of Huawei's CFO

Jonathan Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty ImagesJohn McCallum
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, following comments McCallum made about the arrest and potential extradition of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.
  • McCallum said last week that Meng had “strong arguments” for resisting extradition to the US. He later added that if the US were to drop its extradition request, it would be “great for Canada.”
  • Trudeau said in a statement on Saturday that he had asked for and accepted McCallum’s resignation.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired the country’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, on Saturday after McCallum spoke out about the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.

It was the latest twist in the saga over Meng, who was detained last month in Vancouver, British Columbia, on suspicion of violating US trade sanctions.

McCallum told Chinese-language media on Tuesday that Meng had some “strong arguments” for avoiding extradition to the US and that Meng’s extradition “would not be a happy outcome.”

His comments astonished fellow diplomats, several of whom said they undermined Canada’s position. David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, called McCallum’s remarks “mind-boggling.”

McCallum later apologised and told the Canadian newspaper The Star that he “misspoke,” but he added that if the US were to drop its extradition request, it would be “great for Canada.”


Read more:
China is outraged that the US wants to take the arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou off Canada’s hands

The Star said last week that Trudeau was standing by McCallum, but that changed over the weekend. In a statement on Saturday, Trudeau said, “Last night I asked for and accepted John McCallum’s resignation as Canada’s ambassador to China.”

Meng’s case has sent tremors through China-Canada relations, and since her arrest on December 1 two Canadians have been detained in China and a third had a prison sentence upgraded to the death penalty.

China has characterised the arrest as politically motivated by the US, which has been lobbying allied countries to freeze out Huawei’s plans for a new 5G network on national-security grounds, saying Huawei could be acting as a back door for the Chinese government.

Chinese state media reacted derisively to the news of McCallum’s resignation. The state-run newspaper Global Times said that “Ottawa is now as sensitive as a frightened bird.”

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