Canada’s foreign minister says why China envoy fired

January 29, 2019
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FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2018, file photo, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou arrives at a parole office with a security guard in Vancouver, British Columbia. China on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, demanded the U.S. drop a request that Canada extradite the top executive of the tech giant Huawei, shifting blame to Washington in a case that has severely damaged Beijing’s relations with Ottawa. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

TORONTO (AP) — Canada’s foreign minister said Monday the country’s ambassador to China was fired because he expressed views that were contrary to the federal government’s position on the detention of a Chinese tech executive.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the central job of an ambassador is to represent accurately the government’s position. She said John McCallum didn’t do that and that is why his position was untenable.

Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have stressed that Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou is the subject of a legal proceeding that is not politically motivated. The U.S. wants Meng extradited to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.

But McCallum told the Toronto Star Friday it would be “great” if the U.S. dropped its extradition request. That came a day after he issued a statement saying he misspoke about the case earlier in the week and regretted saying Meng has a strong case against extradition.

Canada’s Department of Justice confirmed late Monday that officials had received the formal U.S. request for Meng’s extradition to the United States.  

The arrest of the daughter of Huawei’s founder at Vancouver’s airport on Dec. 1 has led to the worst relations between Canada and China since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

China detained two Canadians shortly after her arrest in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release her. A Chinese court also sentenced a third Canadian to death in a sudden retrial of a drug case, overturning a 15-year prison term handed down earlier.

McCallum told Chinese-language media in the Toronto area last week that the extradition of Meng to the U.S. “would not be a happy outcome.” But on Thursday he walked back the remarks before doubling down again Friday.

McCallum’s remarks surprised many and fueled speculation that Canada might be trying to send a signal to China to reduce tensions.

But Trudeau clearly had enough after the envoy spoke off script again and fired him Friday night.

Trudeau has been calling leaders around the world in a campaign to win the release of the two detained Canadians and seek clemency for the Canadian facing the death penalty.

Many countries, including the United States, Britain and Australia, have issued statements in support.

“We are deeply grateful to the Government of Canada for its assistance and for its steadfast commitment to the rule of law,” U.S. acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker said at a news conference to announce new charges against Huawei on Monday.

Whitaker was joined by other Cabinet officials, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Update hourly