Canadian PM fires envoy to China after remarks on Huawei case

Canadian PM fires envoy to China after remarks on Huawei case

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has fired Canada's ambassador to China following comments the envoy made to media about the case of a Huawei executive detained in Canada on a United States arrest warrant.

"Last night I asked for and accepted John McCallum's resignation as Canada's ambassador to China", Trudeau said in a statement that did not explain his reasons.

The firing came after McCallum made comments picking apart the U.S. extradition request for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, apologised, then again weighed in on the case, telling The Toronto Star that it would be "great for Canada" if the USA dropped the charges.

In the interview with Chinese media, McCallum said Meng had "quite good arguments on her side" against extradition and suggested the case was politically motivated.

The following day he issued a statement saying that he "misspoke", and "regrets" that his comments "have created confusion".

He told StarMetro Vancouver on Friday that if the US and China reach an agreement on Meng's case, the deal should include the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians now detained in China for what many analysts say is revenge for the detention of Meng. She was being sought by the United States, which claims she committed fraud by lying to bankers about allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

China detained two Canadians shortly after her arrest in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release her.

She was arrested on 1 December in Canada's western city of Vancouver at the request of the US.

Mr Trudeau had earlier dismissed calls to fire Mr McCallum.

Andrew Scheer, leader of the official opposition Conservative Party, said in a tweet that Trudeau "should have fired his ambassador the moment he interfered in this case" and accused the prime minister of weakness and indecision.

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But McCallum's statements put the Liberal government in a touchy position.

Jim Nickel, the deputy head of mission at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, is set to step in and represent his government in China.

While Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was in Europe attempting to bolster global support in Canada's diplomatic tiff with China, events back in Canada may have put a new obstacle in the government's path.

But on Thursday the ambassador walked back the remarks and said he "misspoke".

Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said he felt bad for Mr McCallum but said it was the right thing to do.

Mr McCallum's wife is ethnically Chinese, and he had a large Chinese-Canadian population in his former constituency in Ontario. "And the USA is highly aware of that", he said.

Saint-Jacques said consul general told him he thinks Canadian a delegation should visit Beijing for talks.

Meng is out on bail awaiting her extradition proceedings.

The prime minister did not immediately issue an explanation, but the move comes after the former ambassador was quoted in StarMetro Vancouver on Friday as saying it would be "great for Canada" if the United States drops an extradition request against a Huawei executive detained in Canada.

Huawei has close ties to China's military and is considered one of the country's most successful global enterprises, operating in the high-tech sphere where China hopes to establish dominance.

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