China said Tuesday it was expelling Canada’s consul in Shanghai in a tit-for-tat move after Ottawa said it was sending home a Chinese diplomat accused of trying to intimidate a Canadian lawmaker critical of Beijing.
Beijing’s foreign ministry labelled Jennifer Lynn Lalonde “persona non grata” in an English statement published online, adding “China reserves the right to further react”.
Lalonde was told to leave China by May 13.
“China strongly condemns and firmly opposes this and has lodged serious demarches and strong protest to Canada,” the statement said, referring to Ottawa’s decision to expel a Chinese diplomat in Toronto.
“As a reciprocal countermeasure in reaction to Canada’s unscrupulous move, China decides to declare Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, consul of the Consulate General of Canada in Shanghai persona non grata,” it added.
“China reserves the right to further react.”
Neither Canada’s foreign ministry nor its embassy in Beijing or Shanghai consulate replied to requests for comment from AFP.
Beijing’s move comes after Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said Toronto-based Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei would have to leave the country.
Canada, she said, would “not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs”.
“We remain firm in our resolve that defending our democracy is of the utmost importance,” she said, adding that foreign diplomats in Canada “have been warned that if they engage in this type of behaviour, they will be sent home”‘.
The expulsions plunge the two nations into a fresh diplomatic row after years of souring relations.
They follow an outcry led by Canadian parliamentarian Michael Chong over allegations that China’s intelligence agency had planned to target him and his relatives in Hong Kong with sanctions for voting in February 2021 for a motion condemning Beijing’s conduct in the Xinjiang region as genocide.
This was “almost certainly meant to make an example of this MP and deter others from taking anti-PRC (People’s Republic of China) positions,” the Globe and Mail newspaper last week cited a Canadian Security Intelligence Service document as saying.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faced growing pressure to take a hard line with Beijing following revelations in recent months that it sought to sway Canada’s 2019 and 2021 elections.
The latest allegations were used by his critics to further accuse him of inertia in the face of foreign meddling.
Relations between Beijing and Ottawa have been tense since Canada’s 2018 arrest of a top Huawei executive and the detention of two Canadian nationals in China in apparent retaliation.
All three have been released, but Beijing has continued to blast Ottawa for aligning with Washington’s China policy, while Canadian officials have regularly accused China of interference.
After China’s ambassador was summoned last week over the latest interference allegations, Beijing on Friday slammed what it called “groundless slander and defamation” by Canada.
The Chinese foreign ministry insisted the scandal had been “hyped up by some Canadian politicians and media”.
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