Canada’s ambassador to China retracts Huawei remarks

Canada’s ambassador to China John McCallum has retracted controversial comments he made about the case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, saying he “misspoke.”

McCallum’s remarks sparked outrage in Canada on Wednesday when he told Chinese-language media that Meng had a “strong” case to challenge an US extradition order.

Meng was taken into custody on December 1 by Canadian authorities on behalf of the US, provoking a furious reaction from Beijing. Multiple Canadians were subsequently detained in China.

The Huawei Chief Financial Officer is due to face court in Canada in February after the US said it would file a formal extradition request by the January 30 deadline.

“I think she has quite good arguments on her side,” McCallum said on Wednesday. “One, political involvement by comments from Donald Trump in her case. Two, there’s an extraterritorial aspect to her case, and three, there’s the issue of Iran sanctions which are involved in her case, and Canada does not sign on to these Iran sanctions.”

In a statement Thursday, McCallum apologized for creating “confusion” around the legal proceedings.

“These comments do not accurately represent my position on this issue. As the government has consistently made clear, there has been no political involvement in this process,” he said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said officials had “noted” McCallum’s comments, adding “anyone with normal judgment” could see through the case.

The comments sparked a furious reaction from some quarters in Canada, with opposition leader Andrew Scheer calling for McCallum to be fired over his comments.

“We can’t on the one hand go and defend our actions to the Chinese government by saying these decisions are made at arm’s length … if then on the other hand the government is using our ambassador to China to interfere in the process to obtain a desired outcome,” Scheer told the CBC on Wednesday.