Canadian ambassador McCallum fired for Huawei CFO extradition remark

World Today

Trudeau sacks Canadian envoy to China after Huawei controversyIn this file photo taken on March 16, 2016, Canada’s then Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees Minister John McCallum speaks at the board of trade of Metropolitan Montreal. (ALICE CHICHE / AFP)

A now-former Canadian diplomat has lost his job after saying that “it would be great” if the U.S. dropped its extradition request for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who is currently under house arrest in Canada.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports from Ottawa.

Politicians returned for the year’s first formal session of Canada’s House of Commons on a freezing afternoon in Ottawa. But just as at their last sitting, the focus continues to be the fallout following the arrest of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the beginning of December.

Canadian agents detained Meng at the request of Washington, which claims Huawei used Hong Kong-based Skycom Tech as a shell company to dodge U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Over the weekend, Canadian ambassador to China John McCallum was forced to resign by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The move came after several comments McCallum had made about the case, including that “it would be great” for Canada if the U.S. dropped its extradition request.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland maintains it was the right decision. 

“Ambassador McCallum’s comments were inconsistent with the position of the government of Canada,” she explained. “The first and foremost job of any ambassador of our country is to express accurately our government’s position.” 

McCallum’s firing is yet another twist in the saga, coming at a time when Canada is reviewing whether to allow Huawei to participate in developing the country’s ultra-fast 5G wireless network.

Australia, New Zealand and the US have all banned the use of Huawei products in 5G network developments, based on fears the company could spy on behalf of China. 

That suggestion holds little weight in Beijing. 

“A country has the right to safeguard its information security,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said. “But it cannot, under the pretext of security, harm or even stifle the legitimate operation of enterprises. All countries should be vigilant and resist that.”

Wesley Wark, a security and intelligence specialist at the University of Ottawa, also believes it is highly unlikely that Huawei would risk its global reputation to conduct cyber-espionage.

“Huawei would not first of all knowingly allow itself to be a tool of espionage on behalf of the Chinese state,” explained. “Secondly, my view is that the Chinese state would not risk the reputation of Huawei by explicitly trying to use Huawei for the advancement of espionage or other purposes.” 

With Washington plotting its next moves, China’s foreign ministry has repeated its call for Meng Wanzhou’s immediate release.