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Canadian Ambassador to China fired amid Huawei controversy

January 27, 2019 01:35 PM

OTTAWA: John McCallum has been fired as Canadas Ambassador to China after the diplomat made a controversial statement regarding the detention of Huawei's Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in Vancouver over accusations of helping the Chinese tech firm dodge American sanctions on Iran.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Saturday that he had requested McCallum relinquish his post, reports The Globe and Mail daily.

"Last night I asked for and accepted John McCallum's resignation as Canada's Ambassador to China," Trudeau said in a statement.

The Prime Minister said the deputy head of the mission in Beijing will take over for now.

"Effective immediately and in keeping with standard practice, Jim Nickel, the Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Canada in Beijing, will represent Canada in China as Charge d'affaires," Trudeau's statement added.

Last week, McCallum ignited controversy after he told reporters in the Toronto area that he believed Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou had strong legal arguments in her favour as she sought to avoid being extradited to the US.

He also speculated that US President Donald Trump might intervene and cut a deal which would result in her freedom.

The Prime Minister gave no reason for McCallum's firing, but the diplomat's comments threatened to damage relations with the US and risked fuelling the impression that Ottawa was intervening politically in the case.

Since Meng's arrest on December 13, two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, have been detained in China on allegations of endangering the country's national security, while a third, Robert Schellenberg, has been sentenced to death, barring appeal, after an unusually speedy retrial on drug-smuggling charges.

On Saturday while making the announcement, Trudeau spoke fondly of McCallum, who had served in federal politics for more than 17 years and and most recently as his former minister of immigration, The Globe and Mail daily said.

"For almost two decades, John McCallum has served Canadians honourably and with distinction. He held many positions in Cabinet... His work as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in bringing in over 39,500 Syrian refugees remains an inspiration to Canadians and an example to the world. I thank him and his family for his service over the past many years."

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