The Liberal government is expelling Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei, whom Canada’s spy agency alleged was involved in a plot to intimidate Conservative MP Michael Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly wrote in a statement that Canada has declared the Toronto-based diplomat as “persona non grata.”
“We will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs,” she wrote.
“Diplomats in Canada have been warned that if they engage in this type of behaviour, they will be sent home.”
Joly’s statement came just as MPs were voting in favour of a Conservation motion calling for certain diplomats to be expelled and for the government to call a public inquiry into foreign interference.
Calls for Zhao to be expelled began last week after a report in the Globe and Mail that CSIS had information in 2021 that the Chinese government was looking at ways to intimidate Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong. the federal government has confirmed that report.
The federal government took its time to decide whether to proceed with both Joly and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warning about backlash.
“This is a serious and significant question,” Trudeau said, speaking with reporters in London where he was attending the coronation of King Charles.
“This is a decision not to be taken lightly and the foreign minister is leaning into this very, very carefully.”
Last week, Joly said that Beijing could threaten the safety of Canadians and the prosperity of the country in retaliation for any expulsion, but Joly now says that is worth that risk.
“This decision has been taken after careful consideration of all factors at play,” she wrote. “We remain firm in our resolve that defending our democracy is of the utmost importance.”
The threats against Chong came after he successfully sponsored a motion in the House of Commons labelling Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China a genocide.
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa has been asked to comment on Zhao’s expulsion.
China has previously insisted it does not interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, but says it will respond to what it calls provocations.
After the first report on the threats last week, Trudeau said CSIS did not tell anyone outside the spy agency about them, and that neither he nor the public safety minister were briefed.
Chong later said he was told the national security adviser was briefed.
The Liberals have now issued a directive that any such information involving members of Parliament be elevated to the highest levels, even if it seems minor.
The revelation about Chong is the latest in a string of foreign interference attempts allegedly made by the Chinese government in Canada in recent years, including efforts to influence the results of the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
Trudeau has appointed former governor general David Johnston as a special rapporteur to dig into the issue, including whether a public inquiry is needed.
The Conservative motion, which passed easily Monday with the support of every opposition party, does call on the government to move to an inquiry but it is not binding on the government to act.
The motion also asks Ottawa to create a foreign-agent registry, close down so-called police stations run by Beijing, and “expel all of the People’s Republic of China diplomats responsible for and involved in these affronts to Canadian democracy.”
The government is in the process of consulting about creating such a registry but hasn’t put a timeline on when it would proceed with creating one.
—Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press