Former ambassador to China John McCallum defended his comments that Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou has a strong case to fight extradition to the United States, and that his legal arguments to help her "were okay."
“I made some comments about how the burden of proof is lower for extradition cases, so that went against her. But I also commented on some of the legal arguments she might have, which I just picked up from the media. The case was not at that point before the courts, so I am not sure that what I said was inappropriate,” McCallum told the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations on Nov. 24.
Prior to that, in a press conference in Toronto on Jan. 22, 2019, McCallum had also told Chinese state-owned media including CCTV, Xinhua News Agency, and a select group of Canada-based Chinese-language media, that Meng has a strong case to fight extradition to the United States, and her extradition “would not be a happy outcome.” His comments were viewed as political interference by a government official in a case that is before the courts.
However, McCallum told the committee he regretted advising his former contacts at China’s Ministry of Foreign affairs in the summer of 2019 that any further “punishments” imposed on Canada’s exports could lead to a Liberal election loss. “Anything that is more negative against Canada will help the Conservatives, [who] are much less friendly to China than the Liberals,” McCallum told The South China Morning Post.
“The comment about the election I think was inappropriate,” McCallum said.
Asked by Conservative MP Michael Barrett if he agrees there is a need to set up a registry to monitor the work of Canadians who serve foreign states, McCallum said he would comply if the registry exists, but doubts the usefulness of it.
“Right now, advice I give to Chinese companies is advice if they're seeking to invest in Canada and create jobs in Canada, but they're already subject to all the restrictions of Investment Canada Act, and also all the laws of Canada and provinces and cities and regulations. … I'm just not sure it gives additional information that would be useful to the government,” replied McCallum, who now works as a senior strategic advisor representing Chinese clients at law firm McMillan.
Mulroney proposes former Canadian high-office holders, now paid by foreign states or companies to lobby or communicate on their behalf to influence Canadian government policy or public opinion in Canada, should be regulated and disclose their activities to the registry.
“It is not being alarmist to suggest that foreign countries continue to seek influence in Canada,” Mulroney wrote. “China’s Communist Party has well-developed mechanisms for influencing political opinion in foreign countries. This frequently involves the use of agents of influence in target countries.”
Australia and the United States have passed laws to curb Beijing’s increasing lobbying efforts.
When questioned if he had received gifts from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during his tenure as the ambassador, McCallum said he had “not received a penny” as “ambassador, as MP, or post-ambassador” from Beijing.
With regards to his previous engagement as a speaker with Wailian Group—a Shanghai-based immigration agency that helps people immigrate to Canada—that triggered cabinet critics to call on the ethics commissioner in July to investigate on possible conflict of interest, McCallum said that he “submitted evidence to the Ethics Commissioner and I had a conversation with the Ethics Commissioner. He agreed with me that I had done nothing wrong, that I had broken no rules, that he was not going to launch any investigation.”
“I gave a talk to some of their clients who were thinking about immigrating to Canada,” McCallum said.
When asked by Bloc MP Stéphane Bergeron on why during his tenure as the immigration minister (Nov. 4, 2015 to Jan. 10, 2017), he authorised the CCP to set up recruitment agencies in Canada to recruit Canadian talents to China, McCallum said “I’m not aware of that.” When Bergeron followed up on what’s the CCP’s objective in recruiting Canadians, McCallum replied “I don’t know.”
“How can Canada continue to do business with China in the same way, continue to have relations with China in the same way as before, when it's clear to everyone now that you cannot trust the Chinese Communist Party?" Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus asked.
“I think that the government is trying to find a good solution. It's true that we're going through a difficult period here. It's not easy to find the right answer,” McCallum replied, adding that “we want a relationship with the Chinese government.”