Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired Canada's ambassador to China after the envoy said it would be "great" if the US dropped its extradition request for a Chinese tech executive arrested in Canada.

Trudeau said overnight that he had asked for and accepted John McCallum's resignation on Friday night.

McCallum made the remark to the Toronto Star on Friday. That came a day after he issued a statement saying he misspoke about the case earlier in the week and regretted saying Meng Wanzhou has a strong case against extradition.

The arrest of the daughter of the founder of Huawei Technologies Ltd at Vancouver's airport on December 1 severely damaged relations between China and Canada.

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The US wants her extradited to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks about Huawei's business dealings in Iran

"Last night I asked for and accepted John McCallum's resignation as Canada's Ambassador to China," Trudeau said in a statement.

Trudeau said Jim Nickel, the deputy head of mission at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, would represent his government in China. He thanked McCallum, a former minister in Trudeau's Cabinet, for his 20 years of public service.

A year ago Canada's ambassador to China John McCallum, who was previously a minister in Trudeau's cabinet, also made controversial comments about how Canada had more in common with China than the United States under Trump. Photo / AP
A year ago Canada's ambassador to China John McCallum, who was previously a minister in Trudeau's cabinet, also made controversial comments about how Canada had more in common with China than the United States under Trump. Photo / AP

China detained two Canadians shortly after Meng's arrest in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release her. A Chinese court also sentenced a Canadian to death in a sudden retrial of a drug case, overturning a 15-year prison term handed down earlier.

McCallum told Chinese media in the Toronto area earlier in the week that the extradition of Meng to the United States "would not be a happy outcome." He also suggested the case was politically motivated.

But on Thursday he walked back the remarks and said he "misspoke."

Trudeau earlier this week dismissed calls to fire McCallum, but he clearly had enough after McCallum spoke off script again. Trudeau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland have stressed that Canada's government can't interfere politically in the case.

The leader of the opposition Conservative Party, Andrew Scheer, said McCallum should have been fired days ago because his remarks raised concerns about the politicisation of the Meng case.

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Scheer said McCallum caused damage to Canada's reputation by delivering different messages through different media on different days.

"The time to make a decision was right away," Scheer said.

McCallum's remarks surprised many and fuelled speculation that Canada might be trying to send a signal to China to reduce tensions.

A year ago, McCallum also made controversial comments about how Canada had more in common with China than the United States under Trump.

Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said on Friday that McCallum's remarks about how Canada would like to see the US drop the case "are true but he should have kept his mouth shut".

Saint-Jacques called it another mistake by McCallum but said firing him would not help the two Canadians as it would take too long to replace the envoy and the Chinese might not be co-operative.

He said he spoke to China's consul general in Montreal on Thursday who reported that China is furious at Canada for arresting Meng on behalf of the US, which is involved in trade talks with China.

Saint-Jacques said the consul general told him he thinks a Canadian delegation should visit Beijing for talks. Saint-Jacques said Canada should appoint a special envoy to try to resolve the crisis.

Trudeau and Freeland have stressed that Canada is a rule-of-law country and has an extradition treaty with the US that it must respect.

Meng is out on bail in Vancouver awaiting her extradition proceedings. The US has until the end of the month to submit the paperwork for the extradition request.

Huawei has close ties to China's military and is considered one of the country's most successful international enterprises.

- AP