Canada expelled Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei on Monday after an intelligence report accused him of targeting Michael Chong, a Conservative Party member of parliament, for retaliation after Chong spoke out against China’s genocide of the Uyghur Muslims. China quickly expelled a Canadian diplomat in retaliation.
“I have been clear: We will not tolerate any form of foreign interference,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Monday when announcing Zhao’s expulsion.
“Diplomats in Canada have been warned that if they engage in this type of behavior, they will be sent home,” she said.
Joly said the decision to declare Toronto-based Zhao Wei “persona non grata” was made after “careful consideration of all factors at play.”
“We remain firm in our resolve that defending our democracy is of the utmost importance,” she said.
Joly was acting on a 2021 report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that was made public by Canada’s Globe and Mail in February 2023. The report detailed a complex Chinese strategy to interfere with Canadian democracy during the September 2021 federal elections.
News – South China Morning Post | Canada expels Chinese diplomat accused of targeting MP Michael Chonghttps://t.co/yWKYRGxdFo#WNN7 #WNN7com #WorldNewsNuggets #BreakingNews
— WNN7.com (@WNN7Com) May 8, 2023
According to the report, Beijing wanted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party to remain in power but only as a weak minority government. Beijing’s agents meanwhile worked with “Chinese community members and associations within Canadian society” against members of the Conservative Party, which it saw as more unfriendly to Chinese interests.
CSIS said China used disinformation campaigns and proxy organizations in Canada to sabotage Conservative campaigns. Chinese diplomats were allegedly used as conduits for shadowy financial support to Beijing’s favored Canadian candidates and to organize Chinese students and immigrants as manpower for Liberal campaigns.
Michael Chong was a Conservative Party lawmaker that Beijing particularly hated since he was an outspoken critic of China’s human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslims and he came from a Hong Kong family. Chong led a parliamentary vote to officially recognize China’s abuse of the Uyghurs as genocidal in 2021. The Liberal cabinet abstained from voting on the measure.
CSIS said China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) “has taken specific actions to target Canadian MPs,” especially those who voted for the Uyghur genocide resolution. One MSS officer searched for information about an unnamed Canadian MP’s relatives in China so they could be targeted for reprisals. CSIS concluded the MSS wanted to “make an example of this MP and deter others from taking anti-PRC [People’s Republic of China] positions.”
The Globe and Mail found a national security source in early May 2023 who said the target of this chilling effort was Chong himself, and Zhao Wei was the point man for China’s effort to locate and target his family.
Chong told the Globe and Mail he was unaware of this effort to hunt down his family. He said he was personally hit with sanctions by the Chinese government after sponsoring the Uyghur resolution in March 2021 and has avoided contact with his relatives in Hong Kong ever since then, precisely to spare them from being punished by China to get at him.
“This is more evidence of the PRC’s meddling in Canadian democracy and more evidence for Ottawa to take immediate action. To date, we’ve not had a single Chinese diplomat that’s been expelled. To date, we’ve not had a single individual charged because of this foreign interference,” Chong said a week ago.
China views Canada as a ‘high priority’ for interference: CSIS report #cdnpoli #china https://t.co/E4mKqPYB8H
— Robert Fife (@RobertFife) May 1, 2023
“The government did nothing about a person in Canada that was targeting me and my family and targeting other members of parliament. The government knew about this two years ago and did nothing,” Chong said at a press conference last Wednesday.
Chong specifically complained about Zhao, lamenting the Trudeau administration’s reluctance to expel him.
“In fact, they continued to accredit this individual as a diplomat, giving this individual special rights and immunities not afforded to Canadians, allowing this individual to continue the correction and intimidation campaign,” he said.
Chong denounced the Zhao situation as an “appalling breakdown of leadership on the part of the prime minister.” He repeated calls from the Conservatives and other parties for the Canadian government to convene a public inquiry into Chinese election interference.
Prime Minister Trudeau responded by claiming he did not know about the allegations against Zhao until he read the Globe and Mail’s coverage of the two-year-old CSIS report, which did not make him look any better.
The Chinese government denounced the CSIS report, claiming it had “no factual basis and is purely baseless.” On Tuesday, China expelled Canada’s consul in Shanghai, Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, as an act of tit-for-tat retribution.
“In response to the Canadian side’s unreasonable provocation, China has adopted corresponding retaliatory measures. This was absolutely just and necessary. We urge Canada to immediately stop its unreasonable provocations,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.
Wang threatened Canada with further retaliation if it continues to “act recklessly,” and said the Canadians would “bear all the consequences” for any further confrontations.
China successfully bullied Canada into releasing Huawei executive and Chinese Communist Party royalty Meng Wanzhou by taking two Canadians hostage after Meng was arrested at the behest of the U.S. government on fraud and sanctions-evasion charges in 2018. All three of them were released in 2021. China also used economic pressure to secure Meng’s release by banning Canadian canola soon after she was arrested.
China’s state-run Global Times maintained a threatening posture on Tuesday, reminding Canada of how China subdued it with terror tactics by archly working the word “kidnapped” into its reminiscence of the Meng controversy: “China-Canada relations, which have not fully recovered from the arrest of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou, should not be kidnapped and destroyed by certain Canadian politicians.”
“Some Chinese experts believe that the latest diplomatic row will deliver a direct heavy blow to the already strained China-Canada relations, and the Canadian government’s China policy has become more confrontational due to its domestic political wrestling, which may enter a downward spiral,” the Global Times mused ominously.
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