Canada’s ambassador to China on Thursday walked back comments that Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou has a ‘strong case’ against extradition to the United States, following a political backlash.
Ambassador John McCallum said in a statement that he ‘misspoke’ and ‘regrets that my comments with respect to the legal proceedings of Ms. Meng have created confusion.’
Meng was arrested on December 1 while changing planes in Vancouver at the request of the United States, which says she committed fraud by lying to bankers about allegedly violating American sanctions on Iran.
She has been released on bail, but her arrest has sparked an escalating diplomatic crisis between Ottawa and Beijing.
Speaking to Chinese-language media in Canada on Tuesday, after briefing lawmakers on the plight of two Canadians detained in China and a third placed on death row in what are widely seen as retaliatory moves by Beijing, McCallum called the US extradition request flawed.
‘I think Ms. Meng has quite a strong case,’ he told a news conference.
‘One, political involvement by comments from Donald Trump in her case. Two, there’s an extraterritorial aspect to her case, and three, there’s the issue of Iran sanctions which are involved in her case, and Canada does not sign on to these Iran sanctions. So I think she has some strong arguments that she can make before a judge,’ he said.
His remarks about the case were quickly panned by opposition parties and others for seeming to undercut the strict hands-off approach to judicial matters touted by the Canadian government.
McCallum added that he plays ‘no role in assessing any arguments or making any determinations in the extradition process.’