China expels Canadian diplomat in tit-for-tat move

time:2023-06-04 12:34:32source:NBC News author:Press center2

China has expelled Canada's consul in Shanghai in retaliation for Ottawa sending home a Chinese diplomat accused of trying to intimidate a Canadian MP.

On Monday, Canada declared China's diplomat Zhao Wei "persona non grata" and ordered her to leave the country.

In response, China on Tuesday ordered the removal of Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, Canada's diplomat in its Shanghai Consulate.

"China reserves the right to further react," Beijing said in a statement.

Both diplomats have five days to exit the countries.

The censures mark a significant deterioration in relations between Ottawa and Beijing following reports of alleged Chinese political interference in Canada.

Canada had accused China of targeting its opposition lawmaker Michael Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong after Mr Chong accused China of human rights abuses.

Last Thursday, Canada summoned China's ambassador to reiterate that Canada would not tolerate interference in its affairs.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been strained since the detention of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou, held in Canada on US fraud charges in 2018, and Beijing's subsequent arrest of two Canadians on spying charges. All three were freed in 2021.

At the time, China insisted the two cases were not linked, but critics accused Beijing of using the Canadians as political bargaining chips.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly on Monday declared Mr Zhao a "persona non grata", a Latin phrase for an "unwelcome person".

China called the move "unscrupulous" and declared the same of Ms Lalonde - saying it was a "reciprocal countermeasure".

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada "will not be intimidated" by China following Beijing's tit-for-tat expulsion.

"We will continue to do everything necessary to keep Canadians protected from foreign interference," he said.

The move by Ottawa follows a Canadian intelligence report, which emerged in the Globe and Mail newspaper, that accused Mr Zhao of being involved in gathering information about Mr Chong, 51, following his vocal criticism China's treatment of its Uyghur minority population.

It said Canada's spy agency believes China sought details about Mr Chong's relatives in Hong Kong in an effort to deter "anti-China positions".

The politician put forward a motion in parliament in 2021 that declared China's treatment of Uyghurs a genocide. China has denied the accusations and sanctioned Mr Chong shortly after.

Ms Joly said on Monday that Canada "will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs" and that the decision to expel the diplomat had "been taken after careful consideration of all factors at play".

Canada's spy agency has since been directed to immediately pass on information about threats to members of parliament and their families.

"China strongly condemns and firmly opposes this and has lodged serious démarches and strong protest to Canada," China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday.

China last week accused Canada of "slander and defamation" over the claims Beijing targeted Mr Chong and his family.

Mr Chong, a Conservative, has criticised the governing Liberals of mishandling the matter and on Monday said: "It shouldn't have taken two years for the government to make this decision".

The allegations come amid other intelligence reports, leaked to Canadian media outlets, that have accused China of attempting to interfere in Canadian elections.

In March, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an independent special rapporteur to investigate the interference claims.

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