A new acute diplomatic crisis has arisen between Canada and China, which announced this Tuesday, May 9, the expulsion of the Canadian consul in Shanghai in retaliation for a similar decision by Ottawa towards a Chinese diplomat who tried to kill a Canadian MP to intimidate.
Bilateral relations have been strained since Canadian authorities arrested an executive from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in 2018 and China detained two Canadian nationals in retaliation.
Although all three have since been released, tensions continued. Beijing criticized Ottawa for its alignment with Washington’s China policy, and Canadian authorities regularly accused China of interference.
The Canadian daily Globe and Mail reported last week that Conservative MP Michael Chong and his family were allegedly under Chinese pressure over the parliamentarian’s criticism of Beijing.
The newspaper claims Chinese intelligence targeted Michael Chong because he voted for a motion in February 2021 that equated China’s treatment of the Uighur minority with “genocide.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, Canadian consul in Shanghai, was now present “Persona non grata” and had to “leave China before May 13th”.
“China reserves the right to take further measures” of retaliation, the document says.
In Shanghai, Canadian consulate staff told AFP they were not aware of the decision. A Chinese police car was parked in front of the diplomatic mission building.
Neither Canada’s foreign ministry nor its embassy in Beijing immediately commented.
“We advise the Canadian side to stop its unwarranted provocations”Wang Wenbin, a Chinese diplomatic spokesman, told the press on Tuesday.
He warned that China would take over “Decisive and energetic measures” if Canada “Didn’t listen to that advice”.
This new diplomatic crisis was triggered by Canada’s decision on Monday to expel Toronto-based Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei, whom Canada considers to be involved in the alleged intimidation campaign against MP Michael Chong.
“We will not tolerate any foreign interference in our internal affairs”said Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and announced the expulsion Zhao Wei.
The Uyghurs, predominantly Muslims, are the main ethnic group in Xinjiang (northwest China), a region long plagued by bloody attacks that authorities have attributed to Islamists and Uyghur separatists.
In the name of combating terrorism, Chinese authorities launched an extensive campaign of repression in the mid-2010s. The United Nations points out the possibility of crimes against humanity.
Along with two other American figures, Michael Chong was sanctioned by Beijing in March 2021 following his vote, in response to Canada and the United States’ first sanctions against China on the issue.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said at the time that the target persons were banned from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.
For weeks, Justin Trudeau’s government has been under increasing pressure to speak out against Beijing, which has been accused of numerous interferences in Canadian affairs. And these revelations in the press had increased the tension even further.
China is particularly suspected of attempting to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian elections. In particular, a number of articles published by Canadian media mention secret financing or involvement in the election campaigns of certain candidates.
accusations “firmly” denied by the Chinese authorities.
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