Canada’s Ambassador to China John McCallum has walked back his controversial comments about the Huawei executive’s extradition case.

McCallum told a group of Chinese reporters on Tuesday that there are strong legal arguments Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou could make to help her avoid extradition to the United States.

“I misspoke,” McCallum said in a statement issued Thursday.

“These comments do not accurately represent my position on this issue. As the government has consistently made clear, there has been no political involvement in this process.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to stand by the ambassador on Thursday. Asked if he had any plans to punish McCallum, Trudeau said his government is focused on trying to free two Canadians “arbitrarily detained” in China.

“Our focus is entirely on getting those Canadians home safe and making sure that all their rights are respected. And making a change would not help release those Canadians a day sooner,” Trudeau said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer told CTV’s Power Play on Wednesday that he would fire McCallum over the comments.

The controversy began at an unusual press conference in the Toronto area Tuesday where McCallum said there are “good arguments” Meng could present to avoid extradition to the U.S. The former Liberal cabinet minister specifically referenced comments made by U.S. President Donald Trump last month when Trump suggested that the U.S could possibly intervene in the case in return for trade leverage with China.

“Whatever’s good for this country, I would do,” Trump told Reuters in December.

McCallum suggested that Meng’s lawyer could cite Trump’s comments as evidence of possible political interference.

"I think she has some strong arguments that she can make before a judge," McCallum said at the time.

Meng – a highly influential businesswoman working for China’s most powerful telecommunications company -- was arrested on Dec. 1 in Vancouver and accused by U.S. authorities of using a Huawei subsidiary to dodge sanctions against Iran.

Days after Meng’s arrest, Michael Spavor, a Canadian entrepreneur, and Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave, were arrested in China and accused of engaging in activities that endangered China’s national security.

Meng’s arrest has opened up a major rift in Canada-Chinese relations. China insists that Meng hasn’t done anything wrong and has threatened serious repercussions against Canada if she is not released.

Throughout the tense situation, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has pledged that Canada will continue to follow its judicial process.

"Canada is conducting a fair, unbiased and transparent legal proceeding," Freeland's spokesperson, Adam Austen, said in a statement earlier this week.

"There has been no political involvement in this process. Canada respects its international legal commitments, including by honouring its extradition treaty with the United States."

Meng is next due in court on Feb. 6 in Vancouver. She was released on bail last month.


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