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Canada expels Chinese diplomat for allegedly targeting lawmaker

Canada has expelled a Chinese diplomat for allegedly targeting a Canadian politician, in the latest example of Ottawa’s harsher tone towards Beijing over everything from electoral interference to Taiwan.

Canada’s foreign minister Mélanie Joly said Ottawa had declared Zhao Wei “persona non grata”. One Canadian official said the diplomat, who was posted to the Toronto consulate, was given five days to leave Canada.

“We will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs,” Joly wrote on Twitter on Monday. “Diplomats in Canada have been warned that if they engage in this type of behaviour, they will be sent home.”

Canada’s first expulsion of a Chinese diplomat in decades follows a report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that said Zhao targeted Michael Chong, a lawmaker who sponsored a resolution in 2021 declaring that China’s persecution of its Uyghur Muslim population was genocide.

The CSIS report, which was seen by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, said China tried to obtain information about Chong and his family in China. The report said the campaign was likely designed to “make an example” of Chong in an attempt to deter people from taking an anti-China position.

The Chinese embassy in Canada lambasted Ottawa for what it called a “blatant” move based on “rumours of the so-called ‘China interference’ hyped up by some Canadian politicians and media”. It said China would “take resolute countermeasures” in response to the expulsion.

The issue has also sparked criticism of Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who recently said he had not been made aware of the two-year-old allegations despite the potential implications for Chong, an opposition party member.

Canada and the US have been stepping up efforts to crack down on what they have described as China’s interference in their domestic politics and other areas.

The FBI recently arrested two US citizens of Chinese descent for allegedly operating an illegal Chinese police station in New York. Canada last year released its maiden Indo-Pacific strategy, which made clear that Ottawa would adopt a harder stance on Beijing.

China and Canada have had a tumultuous relationship in recent years after Beijing detained two Canadians, known as “the two Michaels”, in what appeared to be retaliation for Canada arresting the Chinese chief financial officer of Huawei after receiving a request from US law enforcement.

The decision to expel Zhao comes two weeks before the G7 summit in Hiroshima at which Trudeau and the other leaders are expected to release a communique containing critical language about China.

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