China and Canada expel diplomats in tit-for-tat moves after Ottawa declares envoy ‘persona non grata’

China’s foreign ministry says retaliatory expulsion of Canadian envoy is ‘just and necessary’

Sravasti Dasgupta
Tuesday 09 May 2023 09:45 BST

Canada expels Chinese diplomat

China on Tuesday expelled a Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move hours after one of its officials in Toronto was expelled by the Justin Trudeau government for allegedly being involved in a plot to intimidate an opposition lawmaker and his relatives in Hong Kong.

China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that in response to Canada’s “unreasonable actions”, Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, consul of the Canadian consulate in Shanghai, has been asked to leave the country by 13 May.

The statement added that China reserves the right to respond further.

The foreign ministry said that the expulsion was "just and necessary," reported Reuters.

The action comes hours after Canada’s foreign affairs minister Mélanie Joly said in a statement on Monday that Ottawa had declared Toronto-based diplomat Zhao Wei “persona non grata.”

“We will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs,” she said.

“Diplomats in Canada have been warned that if they engage in this type of behavior, they will be sent home.

“This decision has been taken after careful consideration of all factors at play,” she added.

The decision comes after Ms Joly said last week that her department is summoning the Chinese ambassador to a meeting after an intelligence agency report indicated that opposition Conservative lawmaker Michael Chong and his Hong Kong relatives were targeted after the politician criticised Beijing’s human rights record.

Mr Chong has been critical of Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province where the minority group faces human rights abuses according to rights groups.

On 1 May details of a Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) 2021 report came to light when Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper reported that Beiing sought information about Mr Chong and his family in China in a likely effort to “make an example” of him and deter others from taking positions against the Chinese government.

The CSIS report had highlighted Chinese influence in Canada that included information about potential threats to Conservative MP Mr Chong and his family.

On Wednesday, Mr Trudeau said he found out about the report from the newspaper, and blamed the spy agency for not passing it on to him at the time.

Mr Chong had also said that he was “profoundly disappointed” to find out about the potential threat to his family from a newspaper.

He criticised the Trudeau government for inaction and called for Mr Zhao’s expulsion.

On Thursday China's foreign ministry denied Canada's allegations.

“China is opposed to any interference in a country’s internal affairs. We never interfere in Canada’s internal affairs and have no interest whatsoever in doing so,” spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters.

Tensions between Canada and China have been running high in recent years especially since the detention of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018.

China subsequently arrested two Canadians on spying charges.

All three were freed in 2021.

The spy agency report on Mr Chong was the latest revelation in a string of foreign interference attempts made by the Chinese government in Canada, according to the Trudeau government.

Mr Trudeau has previously stated that China tried to meddle in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

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