WASHINGTON/OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie said on Thursday she was considering expelling a Chinese diplomat after a 2021 intelligence report said the official sought to track down the family of a Canadian lawmaker in Hong Kong to intimidate them.
“My deputy secretary is now meeting and recalling the Chinese ambassador, which is why we are also evaluating various options including the expulsion of diplomats,” Jolie told a parliamentary committee meeting.
Jolie was responding to a question from Michael Chung, an MP for the opposition Conservative Party, who was identified in the intelligence report after he backed a motion in Parliament declaring China’s treatment of the Muslim Uighur minority as genocide.
“Why does the minister continue to allow this diplomat to be accredited to this country?” Chung said.
Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper said on Monday that China had sought information on Chung and his family in a possible attempt to “set him as an example” and “deter others from taking anti-PRC positions”. The Chinese Consulate in Toronto denied the news.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he learned of the intelligence report from the newspaper, and on Wednesday blamed the spy agency for not passing it on to him at the time.
But on Thursday, Chung said Trudeau’s national security adviser told him the report had been circulated to the Office of the Privy Council, which supports the prime minister and his cabinet, in 2021.
Late Wednesday, China sharply criticized Trudeau’s comment linking lithium produced in China to forced labour, and warned Canada could face consequences if it continues to “denigrate” China’s human rights situation.
“His words ignored the facts and confused black and white. The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this,” the Chinese embassy in Ottawa said in a statement.
“The Canadian side should respect the facts, put aside prejudice, and stop maliciously denigrating China’s human rights, otherwise Canada will definitely bear the consequences.”
Trudeau’s office said it had nothing to add to his comments last week.
(Reporting by Doina Schiaco in Washington and Ismail Shakil in Ottawa.) Editing by Josie Kao
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