In ‘mind-boggling’ remarks, Canada’s ambassador to China John McCallum says Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou has ‘strong case’ against extradition
- Ambassador John McCallum depicted the US case against Meng Wanzhou as seriously flawed and said it would ‘not be a happy outcome’ if she were extradited
- The remarks were decried as inappropriate political meddling in the case against Meng
Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested last month in Canada, has a “strong case” against extradition to the United States, Canada’s ambassador to China said in extraordinary comments broadcast on Wednesday.
Critics said John McCallum’s comments were tantamount to offering legal advice to Meng and undermined the independence of Canada’s judicial process. A former ambassador to China called them “mind-boggling”.
Huawei chief financial officer Meng – also known by the names Sabrina Meng and Cathy 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 Markham, Ontario 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 – Ambassador McCallum depicted the US extradition request as seriously flawed.
“I think Ms Meng has quite a strong case,” he told the news conference, before appearing to offer legal opinion on the case.
“One, political involvement by comments from [US President] 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.
“And then the judge will decide whether he or she thinks [Meng] should be extradited or not.”
Trump last month mused in an interview with Reuters about intervening in Meng’s case if it would help him strike a trade deal with China.
Meng’s extradition hearing is expected to start in February. The process could take months or years.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asked about McCallum’s remarks on Wednesday, stuck to the government’s position of non-interference in judicial matters.
“We will make sure that the rule of law is properly and fully followed,” he said. “That, or course, includes the opportunity for [Meng] to mount a strong defence.”
But if Meng is extradited to the US, McCallum said: “That would not be a happy outcome.”
“And that would take years before it happens because she would have the right to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.”
McCallum also said the US could make a deal with China in which it would no longer seek her extradition.
The opposition Tories accused McCallum of possible “political interference” in the case and of discrediting the extradition process.
David Mulroney, Canada’s former ambassador to China, called McCallum’s remarks “mind-boggling.”
Mulroney said giving advice to a judge is completely inappropriate when the government has been saying that Meng’s extradition is up to judicial authorities.
Mulroney said Trudeau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland should distance themselves from the remarks of McCallum, who is a former cabinet minister in the government.
“It’s a setback and an unfortunate setback. It undermines that Canada is playing this by the book,” he said. “If it is a strategy it is a remarkably poor one.”
Trudeau and Freeland have stressed they can’t interfere politically in the case.
Freeland spokesman Adam Austen said in a statement there has been no political involvement in the Meng case and said Canada is honouring its extradition treaty with the United States.
But opposition Conservative lawmaker Erin O’Toole said McCallum’s comments on Meng’s legal matters raises questions of political interference.
Additional reporting by Associated Press