PM Trudeau Fires Canadian Ambassador to China Over Huawei CFO Extradition Remarks

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired Canada’s ambassador to China on Saturday, after the latter spoke publicly about Huawei’s CFO and the ongoing extradition case to the United States.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou currently remains in Vancouver after being arrested last month, confined to one of two of her mansions in the city, after making $10 million bail. The U.S. plans to pursue an extradition case against Meng soon, on allegations she helped Huawei circumvent U.S sanctions against Iran.

January 24th Remarks

On January 24, Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, misspoke on Meng’s case, saying she had a “strong case” to fight U.S. extradition.

His public remarks had the Conservative opposition calling for Trudeau to fire the ambassador, for politicizing the Huawei CFO’s case. Eventually, McCallum recalled his comments, saying he accidentally “misspoke” and apologized for the “confusion.”

January 25th Remarks

The following day on January 25, McCallum doubled down on his Huawei comments at a charity luncheon in downtown Vancouver, which he attended with former B.C. Premier Christy Clark. He told reporter Joanna Chiu from Star Vancouver it would be “great” for Canada if the U.S. dropped its extradition case against Meng.

“From Canada’s point of view, if (the U.S.) drops the extradition request, that would be great for Canada,” said McCallum to Chiu, who identified herself as a reporter prior to asking the ambassador to comment.

Chiu said on Twitter she made it clear to McCallum she was a reporter and ensured he saw she was recording his comments. Again, he publicly commented on the case citing Canada’s position on the matter.

According to the Star Vancouver, McCallum revealed: “the government held out hope that one option for the release of two Canadian men detained by Beijing, would be Meng’s release under a deal with the U.S.”

January 26th Firing

On Saturday, January 26, Prime Minister Trudeau fired McCallum over the ambassador’s second round of public comments, further deteriorating relations between Canada and China.

“Last night I asked for and accepted John McCallum’s resignation as Canada’s Ambassador to China,” Trudeau said in a press release.

China currently has two Canadian men detained, widely seen as a move made in reaction to Meng’s arrest in Vancouver. A third man from Abbotsford, BC, was sentenced to death in China recently for drug smuggling, overruling a previous lighter sentence.

Canada’s former ambassador to China, David Mulroney, reacted to McCallum’s firing on Twitter, saying “China learns, adapts and exploits weakness…what’s not so “great” is that this prolonged, confused public debate confirms for China the effectiveness of hostage diplomacy.”

Early last week, the U.S. Justice Department confirmed it would file an extradition request for Huewei’s CFO by the January 30, 2019 deadline.

Canada is currently under pressure from the U.S. and other allies to ban Huawei equipment from powering next-generation 5G wireless networks, over allegations of ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Last week, Bell and Telus confirmed to The Globe and Mail they are indeed using Huawei equipment for fibre optic home networks during “last mile” connections, after anonymous sources informed the publication of the relationship, which “has received little attention.”