Canadian envoy retracts comments on Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s case

25 Jan 2019

Huawei logo. Image: alexynovikov/Depositphotos

Canada’s ambassador to China has said he regrets making comments on the case of detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Huawei chief financial officer (CFO) Meng Wanzhou remains under house arrest in Canada at the request of the US in relation to alleged violations of sanctions on Iran. Meng is currently under house arrest in Vancouver, but the Chinese government is demanding she be released.

Last month, US president Donald Trump said he would intervene in the case if it served the national security interests of the US, or helped settle a trade deal with China. His administration was swiftly warned by Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland about the politicisation of the case.

Comments from ambassador to China

Earlier this week, Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, said that Meng had “strong arguments” against extradition to the US, partially due to Trump’s remarks. McCallum also said that extradition of Meng to the US “would not be a happy outcome”.

He added that Canada had not signed on to the US sanctions against Iran allegedly flouted by Meng. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said officials had noted McCallum’s comments, adding “anyone with normal judgement” could see through the case.

According to CBC, McCallum yesterday (24 January) walked back the remarks: “I regret that my comments with respect to the legal proceedings of Ms Meng have created confusion. I misspoke. These comments do not accurately represent my position on this issue,” he said.

“As the government has consistently made clear, there has been no political involvement in this process.”

The government in Canada maintains that it was following the rule of the law by honouring its commitments laid out in its extradition treaty with the US. The US Department of Justice has until 30 January to file a formal extradition request, which it has said it would do. Meng is due in court on 6 February to hear whether the extradition will go ahead.

What does Meng stand accused of?

Canadian prosecutors say that Meng committed fraud, as she allegedly lied about links between Huawei and a shell firm used to sell telecommunications hardware to Iran.

In December 2018, it was alleged that she tried to convince bankers that Huawei and former Hong Kong subsidiary SkyCom were totally separate businesses. The alleged illegal activities were carried out between 2009 and 2014.

Her legal team stated that while SkyCom was once a Huawei subsidiary, the Chinese giant had divested from the company and Meng had left her seat on SkyCom’s board of directors. They also said the Iranian sanctions were labyrinthine and that the sales of SkyCom’s civilian telecoms equipment were unlikely to have violated the rules.

Huawei logo. Image: alexynovikov/Depositphotos

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects