TORONTO (AP) — Canada’s ambassador to China said Friday it would be “great” if the United States dropped its extradition request for a Chinese telecommunications executive arrested in Canada.
John McCallum made the remarks to the Toronto Star in Vancouver on Friday. It comes a day after he issued a statement in which he said he misspoke about the case and regretted his comments about Meng having a strong case to avoid extradition.
“From Canada’s point of view, if (the U.S.) drops the extradition request, that would be great for Canada,” McCallum told the Star in what seem like off script remarks again.
The arrest of the daughter of Huawei’s founder at Vancouver’s airport on Dec. 1 severely damaged relations between China and Canada.
The U.S. wants her extradited to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.
China detained two Canadians shortly after her arrest in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release her. A Chinese court also sentenced a Canadian to death in a sudden retrial of a drug case, overturning a 15-year prison term handed down earlier.
The Canadian government didn’t return multiple messages in response to questions about whether McCallum is speaking for the Canadian government.
McCallum told Chinese media in the Toronto area earlier this week that the extradition of Meng to the United States “would not be a happy outcome.” He also suggested the case is politically motivated. But on Thursday he walked back the remarks and said he “misspoke.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week dismissed calls to fire McCallum. Opposition Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has said McCallum should be fired because his remarks raise concerns about the politicization of the Meng case.
But Trudeau said it wouldn’t do anything to help two Canadians arrested by China.
McCallum’s remarks surprised many and fueled speculation that Canada might be trying to send a signal to China to reduce tensions.
Trudeau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland have stressed Canada can’t interfere politically in the case.
Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said McCallum’s remarks “are true but he should have kept his mouth shut.”
“We would really be happy if the U.S. were to abandon this extradition request,” he said. “But he should know better especially after this week and the fact he was forced to issue a press release.”
Saint-Jacques called it another mistake by McCallum but said firing him would not help the two Canadians as it would take too long to replace the envoy and the Chinese might not be cooperative.
“Maybe he has come to the conclusion that his days are numbered and he doesn’t care,” he said. “But we need to have an ambassador in place because there will be turbulence ahead.”
Saint-Jacques said he spoke to China’s consul general in Montreal on Thursday who reported that China is furious at Canada for arresting Meng on behalf of the U.S which is involved in a trade talks with China.
“They see themselves as the super power and the see us as the vassal state,” Saint-Jacques said of China. “I was listening to him. They don’t listen. They don’t try to make the effort to understand how Canadians feel about this. They see themselves as the aggrieved party and everything they do is justified.”
Saint-Jacques said consul general told him he thinks Canadian a delegation should visit Beijing for talks.
Trudeau and Freeland have stressed that Canada is a rule of law country and has an extradition treaty with the U.S. that it must respect. Meng is out on bail awaiting her extradition proceedings. The U.S. has until the end of the month to submit the paperwork for their extradition request.
Huawei has close ties to China’s military and is considered one of the country’s most successful international enterprises, operating in the high-tech sphere where China hopes to establish dominance.