Canadian Ambassador to China John McCallum is walking back a comment he made earlier in the week suggesting that detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou had a strong case to avoid extradition to the United States.
“I regret that my comments with respect to the legal proceedings of Ms. Meng have created confusion. I misspoke. 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,” McCallum said in a follow-up statement on Thursday.
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He added that Canada would honour its extradition treaty with the United States out of respect for its legal obligations.
“Canada respects its international legal commitments, including by honouring its extradition treaty with the United States. The rule of law is fundamental to all free societies, and we will continue to defend and uphold this principle.”
The ambassador made the initial statement in a closed-door meeting with Chinese-language media on Tuesday, and has received an flood of backlash in response.
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Reports of the Tuesday meeting between McCallum and Chinese media, which was kept secret from English-language media, emerged Wednesday morning as clips began circulating online of McCallum defending the argument put forward by China over the past two months that there has been political interference in Meng’s case and pointing the finger squarely at U.S. President Donald Trump.
“I think she has quite good arguments on her side. One, political involvement by comments from Donald Trump in her case,” McCallum said at the Markham, Ont., meeting.
“Two, there’s an extraterritorial aspect to her case. And three, there’s the issue of Iran sanctions in her case and Canada does not sign on to these. So I think she has some strong arguments she can make before a judge.”
In the interview, McCallum also noted that there are three possible outcomes to the situation which include, Meng being extradited, the U.S. making a deal with China to no longer pursue her extradition, to a Canadian judge deciding to let her go.
In the days following, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer went so far as to say McCallum should be fired for his statement, adding that his comments jeopardize the Canadian judicial system’s independence from politics.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the other hand declined Wednesday to say whether he agreed with McCallum’s statements, saying instead that the government would ensure the rule of law is properly followed.
What Canada is a country of the rule of law,” Trudeau said. “We will make sure the rule of law is properly and fully followed. That, of course, includes the opportunity for her to mount a strong defence,” he said.
–With a file from the Canadian Press.