EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story misidentified the Chinese diplomat who allegedly targeted Michael Chong and his family. His name is Zhao Wei, not Wei Jo. The article has been corrected.
Conservative MP Michael Chong says he was “shaken” to learn about the alleged Chinese campaign targeting him and his family in Hong Kong, and says not taking decisive action will only embolden Beijing to threaten other Canadians.
That action should include expelling the Chinese diplomat in Toronto who was allegedly involved in the plot, Chong told Eric Sorensen in an interview that aired Sunday on The West Block.
“I think the fact they haven’t (acted) emboldens the (People’s Republic of China) to conduct even more of these activities on Canadians,” he said. “So I think they need to send a clear message and expel this diplomat.”
The Globe and Mail reported on Monday that Beijing’s intelligence service allegedly sought to target Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong, citing a top-secret document and an anonymous national security source. The Globe also reported a Chinese diplomat who remains in Canada was allegedly involved.
Chong said the top-secret intelligence assessment from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) cited by the Globe and Mail report outlined the alleged threats against him and his family.
“We know first, from the July 2021 assessment, that an officer in the Ministry of State Security in the PRC was gathering information to target my family in the PRC in order to target me on the floor of the House of Commons and put pressure on me to change my position on democracy and human rights,” Chong said.
“We also know that other MPs were being targeted. We don’t know who they are by the Ministry of State Security in the PRC.
“The second thing we know is that a PRC diplomat accredited by the Government of Canada in Toronto, (Zhao Wei), was working also to gather information about my family in order to put pressure on me. So those are the two facts we know.”
Chong says he wasn’t surprised that China was targeting his family in Hong Kong, with whom he cut off contact years ago “out of an abundance of caution.” Such campaigns have been waged against members of the Chinese diaspora in Canada and their families back in China for years, he noted.
“My case is not unique,” Chong said.
But he said he was “profoundly disappointed” that the Canadian government wasn’t doing enough to protect not just him and his family, but other Canadians being targeted by Beijing.
“It really, really shook me up that we’re standing naked in the wind, so to speak, exposed to these threats.”
The reported campaign against him began after Chong voted in February 2021 in favour of a motion in the House of Commons condemning China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority as a genocide. The following month, China sanctioned Chong, barring him from entering the county and prohibiting Chinese citizens from conducting business with him.
Chong told reporters last week that while he was briefed by CSIS officials at the time, the information was “general in nature” and did not include specific threats regarding him or his family abroad.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has insisted he only learned about the campaign against Chong in the media and was never briefed on the CSIS assessment in 2021 or the years since. But Chong claims the document made its way to Trudeau’s national security advisor and the Privy Council’s Office.
Trudeau has since directed CSIS to inform the government about any threats made against officials or their families, regardless of whether they are considered actionable.
Chong says the move comes too late, accusing Trudeau of intentionally setting up the mechanics of government so that he would not be informed of credible national security threats.
“He’s been prime minister for almost eight years,” he said. “I think this might be excusable eight months into a new government, but there’s no excuse for this eight years in.”
Chong says he was also “astounded” that, during a House of Commons committee meeting he attended Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly listed the potential consequences the government is weighing in expelling the Chinese diplomat who allegedly targeted him.
During a heated exchange with Chong, Joly said “economic interests, consular interests and also diplomatic interests will be affected” by such a move.
“I thought that was very concerning, that a foreign minister of a G7 country would telegraph to an authoritarian state ‘the strongest leverage you have over us is economic,'” Chong said.
Those potential consequences have also been cited by the government when asked why it has yet to expel any Russian diplomats since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine began more than a year ago.
Chong says Canada has had other opportunities to expel Chinese diplomats, including in response to the so-called secret police stations set up in major cities to intimidate Chinese Canadians.
“It’s clear that the government doesn’t treat these threats seriously,” he said.