China will be emboldened to target more Canadians if diplomat not expelled: Chong

By Sean Boynton Global News
Posted May 7, 2023 11:00 am
Updated May 5, 2023 9:35 pm

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, Mr. Wei Jo, 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.

China will be emboldened to target more Canadians if diplomat not expelled: Chong

Canada has not expelled a foreign diplomat since 2018

By Stewart Bell Global News
Posted May 7, 2023 12:00 pm
Updated May 7, 2023 11:27 am

The blue-and-yellow bike locked to a telephone pole outside the Russian embassy in Ottawa was meant to symbolize Ukraine as it endured Moscow’s disastrous invasion.

But after dark on Aug. 16, 2022, a black sedan stopped outside the embassy. Three men got out, spray-painted the bike black, and tagged the pole with the Z logo of Russian forces.

Although the act was caught on camera by a witness, and the vehicle had diplomatic licence plates and was later seen in the embassy parking lot, no Russian envoys were shown the door.

The Canadian government is currently under pressure for not expelling a Toronto-based Chinese diplomat accused of threatening the family of Conservative MP Michael Chong.

But these are not the only countries whose attachés’ misconduct has gone unpunished: not a single diplomat appears to have been expelled by the government in more than five years.

When asked for details of the government’s record of diplomatic expulsions, Global Affairs Canada responded with a link to a press release about four Russians sent packing in March 2018.

The foreign affairs department’s media relations office refused to elaborate when asked to confirm that was Canada’s last diplomatic expulsion. “We have no further comment,” spokesperson Grantly Franklin said.

Over the past five years, foreign diplomats have been accused of spreading disinformation, helping a foreign student accused of sexual assault flee Canada, trashing a rental unit and punching a police officer in the face.

But none of them have been asked to leave Canada.

“If you look at other democratic allies, they have expelled many Russian and PRC diplomats, many,” Chong said in an interview with Eric Sorenson on The West Block.

Since President Vladimir Putin launched his 2022 invasion of Ukraine, European countries have expelled more than 400 Russian diplomats, most recently 20 from Germany, he said.

But the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not taken similar steps, most notably against China for a foreign influence campaign that has included establishing illicit police stations in Canada’s major cities.

“And I think the fact that they haven’t emboldens the PRC to conduct even more of these activities on Canadian soil. So I think they need to send us a clear message and expel this diplomat,” he said.

On Friday, Trudeau told reporters expelling diplomats was “a big step, not a small step. “It’s one that has to be taken with due consideration on all the potential impacts.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly has said diplomats would be expelled if there was “clear evidence” but warned that would trigger a “tit-for-tat” response, resulting in Canadian diplomats being sent home.

“So what?” responded Orest Zakydalsky, senior policy advisor at the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which has been urging the Liberal government to expel Russian diplomats.

Russia has 81 diplomats stationed in Canada, and with relations between Ottawa and Moscow battered by the Ukraine war, Zakydalsky wondered how they passed their time.

Since the start of Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Russian embassy has used social media to attempt to undermine Canada’s support for Kyiv.

On its Twitter account, the embassy has accused Canada of supporting what it falsely labels Ukraine’s Nazi regime while denying the widespread war crimes committed by Russian forces.

The Congress wants the government to demonstrate its resolve by kicking out Russian diplomats, as Canada’s NATO allies like Germany and Norway have done, but no action has followed.

Diplomatic expulsions were more common in Canada’s past. In 2012, the Harper government closed Iran’s embassy and asked its entire staff to leave. That year, Syrian diplomats faced the same reprisal.

In 2013, Canada expelled the Eritrean consul in Toronto for pressuring diaspora members to hand over two per cent of their incomes as a war tax to finance the repressive country’s military.

But more than a half-decade has passed since the last event, which was a show of support for the United Kingdom after Russian agents in England poisoned Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer who worked for British intelligence.

More recently, Canada has been under pressure to respond to intelligence leaks exposing the misconduct of Chinese diplomats, who have been linked to threats, intimidation and election interference.

Last week, Canada summoned the Chinese ambassador after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service confirmed a report in the Globe and Mail that the Chinese consulate in Toronto had discussed targeting Chong’s family in Hong Kong.

After Chong voted in favour of a 2021 motion condemning China’s oppression of minority Uyghurs, an official at China’s consulate in Toronto, Zhao Wei, allegedly proposed going after the MP’s family.

Intelligence reports viewed by Global News repeatedly implicated the Toronto consulate in similar undiplomatic conduct, including a “large clandestine transfer of funds” for the 2019 federal election.

The RCMP is also investigating illicit police stations that Chinese authorities were allegedly operating in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal to pressure Chinese Canadians targeted by Beijing.

In Vancouver, Chinese consul-general Tong Xiaoling allegedly pushed to get pro-Beijing candidates elected to city council in October 2022. She was later replaced but not expelled.

Chinese foreign interference was a key theme of the CSIS report released last week. “These threat actors must be held accountable for their clandestine activities,” it said.

The Chinese embassy called the allegations of its foreign interference campaign “rumours” and a “political farce” that it claimed were “hyped up by some politicians and media.”

Canada has not expelled a foreign diplomat since 2018