Canada has expelled a Chinese diplomat following the release of an intelligence report that accused him of trying to intimidate a Canadian lawmaker critical of China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority.
The rare move highlights the seriousness with which Ottawa is viewing the situation and comes only days after the Canadian government summoned the Chinese ambassador to express frustration over attempts to meddle in Canada’s domestic politics.
“Canada has decided to declare persona non grata Mr Zhao Wei,” the Canadian foreign minister, Mélanie Joly, said in a statement on Monday. “The decision has been taken after careful consideration of all factors at play.”
Diplomatic expulsions are rare in Canada. The last expulsion was in 2018, when Canada joined more than 20 allies in response to the nerve agent attack in the UK, expelling four diplomats.
China’s embassy in Ottawa condemned the expulsion and had lodged a protest with the federal government, and it would “resolutely take countermeasures”. China had previously warned of retaliation if Canada removed one of its diplomats, underscoring the tense relations between the two nations.
Justin Trudeau’s government has been under growing pressure to respond to China following revelations Zhao was part of an alleged campaign to threaten and harass the Conservative MP Michael Chong, as well as his family in Hong Kong. A 2021 report about Chinese influence in Canada by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) included information about potential threats to Chong and his family.
Trudeau has also frustrated political rivals by giving seemingly contradictory statements about when and if senior staff close to him were briefed by the country’s intelligence agency.
The rare decision to remove an accredited diplomat highlights how serious Canada is viewing China’s actions. This move also comes as Canada has been under significant pressure to respond to China, underscoring the continued tension between the two countries.