Canadian Prime Minister Fires Ambassador to China During Dispute Over Tech Giant Huawei
Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, made a surprise announcement early on the morning of Monday, January 27 announcing the resignation of John McCallum, the Canadian Ambassador to China. The firing of Mr. McCallum came after the Ambassador made a series of controversial remarks regarding Canada’s rift with China over the arrest of telecom executive Meng Wanzhou.
The circumstances leading to Mr. McCallum’s fall began late last year when the Chief Financial Officer of the Chinese cell phone company Huawei was arrested when she arrived in Vancouver by Canadian Authorities. The arrest was arranged on behalf of the United States, which alleges that Ms. Wanzhou assisted the Chinese business with dodging U.S. sanctions on Iran and stealing technology from rivals.
Canada has yet to allow the United States to extradite Ms. Wanzhou but has taken extreme measures to prevent the powerful executive from escaping jurisdiction. After being granted a 7.6 million dollar bail, Ms. Wanzhou has been put under 24-hour surveillance and been forced to wear a geolocating ankle bracelet.
The political implications of this high profile arrest have had serious repercussions for Canada. Numerous Canadian citizens residing in China have been arrested in recent weeks under dubious charges. Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has vehemently opposed the detentions, and requested that these people not be used as “political pawns by the Chinese government.”
In the charged atmosphere, Mr. McCallum broke ranks with the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by publicly declaring that the extradition of Ms. Wanzhou, “would not be a happy outcome” and that the executive has, “some strong arguments that she can make before a judge.” These unexpected comments in support of the Huawei boss sparked outrage across Canada but were met with approval by the government of China.
Mr. McCallum was defended in an editorial by the Chinese State-run newspaper The Global Times which called the government of Trudeau, “as sensitive as a frightened bird” and claimed that the Ambassador was simply, “laying bare the facts” of the case against Ms. Wanzhou and Huawei.
Members of the Canadian political world, however, were not so friendly to Mr. McCallum, with voices on both sides of the aisle condemning his comments. David Mulroney, the former Canadian Ambassador to China, called Mr. McCallum’s statements, “mind-boggling.” The current leader of the Conservative party within Canada, Andrew Scheer, also spoke out against the ambassador, deriding what he called a “debacle with China.”
The future of both Ms. Wanzhou and Canadian-Chinese relations seem to have become even more cloudy in the current days, with few knowing what the next step in the dispute will be. If the United States succeeds in extraditing the Huawei executive, the situation will turn much more serious, possibly affecting global trade and diplomatic relations between the three nations. For now, however, the only certainty is that Mr. McCallum will no longer be involved in the future of Canada.