China says Canadian ambassador sacking an internal affair

Mr John McCallum said in front of Chinese-language media in Ontario last week that he believed the US extradition request over detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was seriously flawed, comments which he later walked back.
Mr John McCallum said in front of Chinese-language media in Ontario last week that he believed the US extradition request over detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was seriously flawed, comments which he later walked back.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS/AFP) - China’s foreign ministry said on Monday (Jan 28) that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s sacking of his ambassador to China was an internal Canadian affair, after the envoy prompted a furore with comments about a high-profile extradition case.  

Mr John McCallum had embarrassed Mr Trudeau’s government by saying Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou could make a strong argument against being sent to the United States.  

Ms Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was arrested in Vancouver last month, at the request of US authorities who suspect she violated US sanctions on Iran.  

China subsequently detained two Canadian citizens on national security grounds. A Chinese court later retried a Canadian man who had been jailed for drugs smuggling and sentenced him to death.  

“The matter you have mentioned is an internal affair for Canada. China will not comment,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing in Beijing.  

Mr Geng reiterated China’s call for Canada to “make the correct choice” and release Ms Meng so she could return to China. She was granted bail 10 days after her arrest. 

Chinese state-run media on Monday decried the sacking of McCallum, with the nationalist tabloid Global Times saying in an editorial that the move "reveals political interference".

Ottawa is now as "sensitive as a frightened bird", the newspaper said, noting the visceral political reactions to Mr McCallum's comments.

"The truth is that they knew the geopolitics in the case from the very beginning, but were afraid to point them out," it said. "Canada is a country worthy of respect, but some Canadians... are against moral righteousness while deceiving themselves to believe that they can be honoured as moral models."

 
 
 

The official China Daily newspaper in an editorial on McCallum’s sacking said those who had attacked him “should feel ashamed of themselves”.  

“Trudeau’s firing of the ambassador shows how sensitive Ottawa is to the pickle it has got itself into at the behest of the US,” the English-language paper said.  

“The best solution for Ottawa to emerge with any credibility from the mess it has created is to admit its error of judgment and return freedom to Meng,” it added.  

“It is hoped Ottawa will make the wise choice, a choice that is based on reason and fairness and not on political calculations of how to best get on with the country’s rambunctious southern neighbour.” 

Mr McCallum, a former senior Cabinet minister, said in front of Chinese-language media in Ontario last week that he believed the US extradition request was seriously flawed, comments which he later walked back.

But last Friday, he told the Star Vancouver newspaper that it would be "great for Canada" if the US dropped its extradition request, prompting Mr Trudeau to demand Mr McCallum's resignation.

Ottawa has repeatedly stressed the case is not politically motivated and the justice system is fair, but Chinese media has cast Ms Meng's arrest as part of an assault on the development on the country's high tech industry.

In the past year, a number of Western countries close to the US have barred Huawei products in their telecommunications infrastructure citing security concerns.