Canadian envoy sacking shows 'political interference': Chinese media

January 28, 2019

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A guard attempts to block photos from being taken outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing on January 27, 2019. — AFP
A guard attempts to block photos from being taken outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing on January 27, 2019. — AFP

Chinese state-run media on Monday decried the sacking of Canada's ambassador to Beijing, who was fired after he suggested it would be “great” for Ottawa to release a detained Huawei executive.

The former envoy, John McCallum, had raised eyebrows over a series of remarks regarding the case of Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, whose arrest has sparked a diplomatic row between Beijing and Ottawa.

The resignation, at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “reveals political interference”, nationalist tabloid Global Times said in an editorial.

Ottawa is now as “sensitive as a frightened bird”, the newspaper said, noting the visceral political reactions to McCallum's comments.

“The truth is that they knew the geopolitics in the case from the very beginning, but were afraid to point them out,” it said.

“As a Chinese folk saying goes, 'You cannot live the life of a whore and expect a monument to your chastity',” the Global Times wrote, accusing Ottawa of double standards.

Meng was arrested in December at the behest of the United States, where she is wanted for alleged violations of Iranian sanctions. US authorities plan to formally file for her extradition by a January 30 deadline.

Beijing has reacted furiously to Meng's detention. In apparent retaliation, two Canadian citizens have been detained on national security grounds and another was sentenced to death for drug trafficking.

McCallum, a former senior cabinet minister, said in front of Chinese-language media in Ontario last week that he believed the US extradition request was seriously flawed, comments which he later walked back.

But on Friday, he told the Star Vancouver newspaper that it would be “great for Canada” if the US dropped its extradition request, prompting Trudeau to demand McCallum's resignation.

Ottawa has repeatedly stressed the case is not politically motivated and the justice system is fair but Chinese media has cast Meng's arrest as part of an assault on the country's high-tech industry.

In the past year, a number of Western countries close to the US have barred Huawei products in their telecommunications infrastructure citing security concerns.

The China Daily observed: “McCallum was merely stating the truth when he observed that Meng (Wanzhou) has a strong case against extradition, which he rightly said was politically motivated.”

China's foreign ministry on Monday declined to comment on McCallum's resignation, calling it “Canada's internal affairs”.

“What I want to point out here is that Meng Wanzhou's case is by no means a simple judicial case,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

“There are strong political motives and manipulation behind it,” he added, repeating a call for Ottawa to free Meng.