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Relations take a nosedive

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on February 01, 2019 with No Comments

The saga that started with the arrest of the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei Meng Wanzhou – also deputy chairwoman and the daughter of Huawei’s founder – continues to stir controversy with a senior Liberal party politician John McCallum losing his job as Canada’s Ambassador to China.

The case of Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver earlier in December took on a new dimension after US President Donald Trump suggested he may intervene in the legal saga if it would help his pursuit of a trade deal with China. Meng Wanzhou’s arrest has stoked tensions between the United States and China, just as the two sides have been trying to negotiate an end to their trade war. Even though Meng Wanzhou has been released on bail in Canada, setting her up for a lengthy legal fight over extradition to the United States, Canada now seems to be paying the price for an issue that it could have avoided. Meng Wanzhou’s case had earlier too reflected in China Canada relations. Following Meng’s  arrest on December 1, two Canadians have been detained in China and a third had his prison sentence upgraded to death penalty. These certainly have come as a reaction to Meng’s case as China claims that the arrest was politically motivated by the US, which has been lobbying allied countries to freeze out Huawei’s new 5G network plans on national security grounds. It claims Huawei could be acting as a backdoor for the Chinese government. But, John McCallum had to pay the price. John McCallum has had big jobs in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.  He was the minister of immigration from 2015 to early 2017, and handled the influx of Syrian refugees to this country; then, for the last two years, McCallum was Canada’s Ambassador in China. However, he landed himself in a bizarre situation when last week he commented that Meng Wanzhou had some strong argument for avoiding extradition to the US.  He also said Meng getting extradited “would not be a happy outcome.” His comments were seen as unwanted and his party colleagues were left surprised. David Mulroney, the former Canadian ambassador to China, called comments by McCallum’s remarks “mind boggling”- the comments, which seemed almost deliberately calculated to counter the government’s messaging on the case. He later added that if the US dropped the extradition request it would be “great for Canada,” thus gathering even more controversy. The response from Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying hinted at unwarranted involvement of Canada in an issue that is linked with China-US relations. He urged Canada to “make the right choice instead of risking endangering itself for other’s gains”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially tried shrugging off the comments and later even defended too, however by weekend he had to say, “Last night I asked for and accepted John McCallum’s resignation as Canada’s ambassador to China.” This followed an apology by McCallum who stated that he “misspoke”.

Both McCallum and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should have known well that case of Meng Wanzhou is in court and their remarks don’t carry much weight there. However, when both these leaders came out with contradicting remarks, the junior had to make a way specially when the sounded being “pro China”.

Canada must acknowledge that due to Meng Wanzhou’s case China Canada relations have gone downhill and that is obviously not in the interest of Canada. By expelling McCallum Canada can’t find a solution to get out of the Meng case, it will have to think of some active and constructive steps.



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