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Canada expels Chinese diplomat who allegedly targeted Conservative MP

Click to play video: 'Canada expels Chinese diplomat over alleged targeting of Tory MP Michael Chong'
Canada expels Chinese diplomat over alleged targeting of Tory MP Michael Chong
WATCH: The federal government has now expelled Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei for allegedly intimidating Conservative MP Michael Chong and his family in Hong Kong. Mackenzie Gray reports – May 8, 2023

Canada is expelling the Chinese diplomat who allegedly worked with Beijing to target Conservative MP Michael Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong.

Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement Monday that Zhao Wei, a diplomat at the Chinese consulate in Toronto, has been declared “persona non grata” in Canada.

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

The minister added other diplomats in Canada have been warned they will be sent home if they engage in acts of foreign interference.

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Click to play video: 'International business professor ‘sure’ there will be ‘some retaliation’ after Canada ousts Chinese diplomat'
International business professor ‘sure’ there will be ‘some retaliation’ after Canada ousts Chinese diplomat

The action comes after a week of calls by Chong and other Conservative MPs to expel Zhao, following a Globe and Mail report last Monday that alleged he was involved with Beijing’s intelligence service in targeting Chong and his family.

“It shouldn’t have taken this long,” Chong told reporters in Ottawa following the announcement.

“It shouldn’t have taken the targeting of a member of Parliament to make this decision. We have known for years that the PRC is using its accredited diplomats here in Canada to target Canadians and their families.”

A spokesperson for the Chinese consulate general in Toronto said the embassy “strongly condemns and firmly opposes” the move.

“The Chinese side will take resolute countermeasures and all consequences arising therefrom shall be borne by the Canadian side,” the statement said.

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Click to play video: 'China will be emboldened to target more Canadians if diplomat not expelled: Chong'
China will be emboldened to target more Canadians if diplomat not expelled: Chong

The Globe report cited a national security source and a top-secret intelligence assessment from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which Chong told Global News he has reviewed. Joly confirmed the substance of the CSIS report, including Zhao’s alleged involvement, last week.

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The Conservatives last week put forward a motion that called on the government to expel Chinese diplomats who are involved in foreign interference, along with other measures to combat the issue.

The motion was narrowly adopted on Monday at the same time Joly’s statement was released.

China has denied the allegations that it targeted Chong after the MP 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. But the CSIS document allegedly details further actions Beijing took to put pressure on Chong, including targeting his relatives in Hong Kong.

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The report also allegedly said China was targeting dozens of other Canadian MPs in a similar way. The identities of those MPs have not been released.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau faces criticism for conflicting CSIS info'
Trudeau faces criticism for conflicting CSIS info

China’s Toronto consulate-general said last week the report has “no factual basis and is purely baseless.” China’s ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu, who Joly summoned to Ottawa in response to the report on Chong, said he “protested strongly” against the “threat” to expel Zhao after Joly said she was considering such a move.

“I hope this sends a very clear message to authoritarian states that this kind of activity is completely incompatible with being a diplomat in this country,” Chong said Monday.

The allegations regarding Chong have put additional pressure on the Liberal government to explain how and when foreign interference allegations are raised with top officials, as well as what Ottawa is doing to safeguard its national security from foreign threats.

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Global News reported on Sunday that Canada appears to have not expelled a foreign diplomat since 2018.

Joly, at a House of Commons committee meeting last week, listed the potential consequences the government is weighing in expelling Zhao or any other diplomat.

Click to play video: 'Joly summons Chinese ambassador following alleged threats to Conservative MP'
Joly summons Chinese ambassador following alleged threats to Conservative MP

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 told Eric Sorensen during an interview that aired Sunday on The West Block.

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.

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Chong told Sorensen not expelling Zhao will only embolden China to target more Canadians, and said an expulsion would send a “clear message” that such actions would not be tolerated.

Click to play video: 'Poilievre demands Trudeau expel Chinese diplomat involved in alleged targeting of Michael Chong'
Poilievre demands Trudeau expel Chinese diplomat involved in alleged targeting of Michael Chong

He noted threat campaigns have been waged against members of the Chinese diaspora in Canada and their families back in China for years.

“My case is not unique,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino have repeatedly said they first became aware of the allegations through the newspaper’s report.

But Chong told the House of Commons on Wednesday that Trudeau’s national security adviser, Jody Thomas, informed him that CSIS had shared that information with her office and the Privy Council Office. That has only raised more questions about how that intelligence was handled.

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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 — a move Chong argued should not have taken the government eight years to make.

— with files from Alex Boutilier

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