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China’s intimidation of Canadian lawmaker over Xinjiang issue leads to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions

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(TibetanReview.net, May10’23) – Angered by his intimidation of a member of parliament who had accused China of severe human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has on May 8 declared Toronto-based Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei a “persona non grata”, and asked him leave Canada. China has responded in kind, requiring Canadian envoy in Shanghai to leave the country.

Zhao’s eviction followed a Globe and Mail report last week, which said he was involved in a Chinese state security ministry effort to get information on Conservative lawmaker Michael Chong and his family in Hong Kong.

Responding to his eviction within hours, China listed an official named Jennifer Lalonde, who works at the Consulate General of Canada in Shanghai, as an “unwelcome person” and asked her to leave the country before May 13.

The Globe and Mail, citing an unnamed national security source, had said Zhao was involved in gathering information about Chong, who in 2021 sponsored a successful motion declaring China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority genocide.

Announcing Zhao’s the expulsion, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on May 8, “We will not tolerate any form of foreign interference.”

China called Canada’s action unreasonable and took the tit-for-tat reaction, with its foreign ministry spokesperson saying, “China reserves the right to make further reactions,” according to the scmp.com May 9.

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Chong said he was “profoundly disappointed” to find out about the potential threat to his family in Hong Kong from a newspaper, referring to the Globe and Mail, and criticized the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for inaction. He repeatedly called for Zhao’s expulsion since the Globe and Mail report, noted Reuters May 9.

It cited Trudeau as saying he found out about the intelligence report from the newspaper, and on May 10 blamed the country’s spy agency for not passing it on to him at the time.

Spy agency Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) authored a report in 2021 about Chinese influence in Canada that included information about potential threats to Conservative Member of Parliament Michael Chong and his family.

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Details of the CSIS report came to light only on May 1, when Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper reported that China sought information about Chong and his family in China in a likely effort to “make an example” of him and deter others from taking anti-Chinese government position.

“It shouldn’t have taken two years for the government to make this decision,” Chong has told reporters after the announcement.

Canadian media outlets have earlier also published several reports, citing anonymous intelligence sources, alleging schemes run by the Chinese government to interfere in Canada’s last two elections. Beijing has obviously denied those allegations.

Trudeau had said China attempted to meddle in the 2019 and 2021 votes, but that the efforts did not change the outcome. He has appointed an independent special investigator to probe the allegations.

On China’s retaliatory expulsion of Lalonde, Trudeau has said Canada “will not be intimidated” by China.

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