Canada mulls expelling China diplomat for targeting lawmaker

TORONTO – Canada’s foreign affairs minister said Thursday that the country is considering expelling Chinese diplomats over an intelligence agency report that says one of them conspired to intimidate relatives of Hong Kong by a Canadian lawmaker.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said her department was summoning China’s ambassador to a meeting to stress that Canada will not tolerate such interference. He said the intelligence agency’s report indicated that conservative opposition lawmaker Michael Chong and his Hong Kong relatives were targeted after Chong criticized Beijing’s human rights record.

“We are evaluating different options, including the expulsion of diplomats,” Joly told a parliamentary committee.

Canada’s spy agency has not released details. Chong has said the report identifies a Toronto-based diplomat as part of the plot. Chong has been critical of Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.

“I can’t imagine the shock and concern to learn that your loved ones have been attacked in this way,” Joly told Chong at the committee hearing. “There will be consequences.”

Chong said the diplomat should get on the first plane out of Canada.

“It is inexplicable that this diplomat has not yet been told to leave the country,” he said.

“If we don’t take this course of action, we’re basically putting up a giant billboard for every authoritarian state in the world that says we’re open to foreign interference targeting Canadian citizens. That’s why this individual needs to be sent packing “.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday he only learned of the spy agency’s report after a Globe and Mail story Monday, citing top-secret documents, said the spy agency he had the intelligence. Trudeau has ordered Canada’s intelligence agencies to immediately inform lawmakers of any threats against them, regardless of whether those threats are deemed credible.

Canada’s spy agency did not tell Chong about his family’s targeting until this week.

Many governments, the United Nations and human rights groups accuse China of sweeping a million or more people from its Uyghur community and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minority groups into detention camps, where many have said they were tortured, sexually assaulted and forced to leave. their language and religion. China denies the allegations, which are based on evidence that includes interviews with survivors and photos and satellite images of the Uyghur-origin province of Xinjiang, a major factory and farm center in China’s far west.

Earlier Thursday in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry played down allegations that China was trying to intimidate Chong and his family members.

“China opposes any interference in the internal affairs of a country. We never interfere in Canada’s internal affairs and have no interest in doing so,” spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters, according to an official English transcript.

“We are determined to defend our sovereignty, security and development interests and oppose actions that interfere in China’s internal affairs and harm China’s interests.”

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Last month, Trudeau appointed a former governor general as a special investigator to look into allegations of Chinese interference in Canada’s last two elections. David Johnston will decide whether a public inquiry is needed and Trudeau has said he will comply with the recommendations.

The Globe and Mail, citing unidentified intelligence sources, has reported that China preferred to see Trudeau’s Liberals re-elected in the 2021 election and worked to defeat conservative politicians seen as hostile to Beijing.

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