OTTAWA – The Liberal government has called upon China’s ambassador in response to claims by Canada’s intelligence agency that a Chinese diplomat in Toronto participated in a scheme to threaten a Conservative MP and his family. Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly stated on Thursday that she instructed her deputy minister to inform Chinese Ambassador Cong Peiwu that Canada will not accept any foreign interference in its affairs.
Joly verified media reports stating that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service suspects a diplomat from China’s Toronto consulate was involved in targeting Conservative MP Michael Chong and his family members in Hong Kong, as a result of his critiques of Beijing’s human rights record.
“What has happened is utterly inadmissible,” Joly stated during the House of Commons foreign affairs committee meeting on Thursday, addressing Chong directly.
Joly mentioned that all options, including expelling diplomats, are being considered in response to this behavior. The Opposition Conservatives are urging the Liberals to expel the diplomat, and Joly emphasized that all foreign envoys must adhere to the United Nations agreement outlining acceptable activities.
“All foreign agents in Canada must comply with the Vienna Convention. If they fail to do so, there will be consequences,” she informed the MPs.
Joly expressed her empathy for Chong, who demanded to know why the diplomat had not yet been expelled.
“I cannot fathom the shock and concern you must feel after discovering that your loved ones have been targeted in this manner,” Joly said.
Chong appeared unimpressed and questioned, “So why is this diplomat still here?”
He added that the diplomat enjoys more rights and immunities than Canadians, which allows him to engage in foreign interference activities without facing criminal prosecution.
The Conservatives claim the federal Liberal government neglected to address the threat that surfaced two years ago. However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated this week that the security agency decided not to inform anyone.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre introduced a motion in the House of Commons requesting MPs to urge the government to take more assertive action against foreign interference threats, including expelling Chinese diplomats.
Trudeau said on Wednesday that he only learned about the intelligence after a Globe and Mail article, published on Monday, cited top-secret documents. He has directed Canada’s intelligence agencies to immediately inform MPs of any threats against them, regardless of the threats’ credibility.
“CSIS determined that it wasn’t necessary to escalate the issue, as it wasn’t a significant enough concern,” Trudeau said on Wednesday.
He mentioned that CSIS had been requested to brief Chong around the same time after China publicly announced sanctions against him for criticizing Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province. However, the agency never informed Chong about any threats.
Earlier on Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the allegations of attempting to intimidate Chong and his family members.
“China opposes any interference in a country’s internal affairs. We never meddle in Canada’s internal affairs and have absolutely 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 to oppose actions that interfere in China’s internal affairs and harm China’s interests.”
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