China has denied media reports of a Chinese consular officer “coercing” a Canadian legislator and his family, saying the claim has “no factual basis and is purely baseless”.
The statement from the Chinese consulate-general in Toronto on Thursday came days after The Globe and Mail newspaper reported that Beijing had sought information about a Canadian legislator’s relatives who may be in China in a likely effort to “make an example of this MP and deter others from taking anti-PRC positions”.
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PRC refers to the People’s Republic of China.
The newspaper cited a classified report by Canada’s spy agency.
The daily said the report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) did not name the legislator. But citing a national security source, it identified the politician as Michael Chong, a legislator with Canada’s main opposition Conservative Party.
A diplomatic official at China’s consulate in Toronto was said to be involved in the intrigue, according to reports.
Dismissing the allegations, a spokesperson for China’s consulate-general in Toronto expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to the claims and urged the media and politicians concerned to “stop spreading rumours and smearing”.
The spokesperson said Canadian media and politicians were “intentionally damaging the reputation and image” of the consulate and “maliciously interfering with normal communication and cooperation between both parties”.
Chong, meanwhile, has criticised the CSIS for failing to inform him about the potential threats to him and his relatives in Hong Kong, saying he was “profoundly disappointed” to find out about them from a newspaper.
“While I have been briefed by CSIS about foreign interference threat activities, these briefings did not provide any information about this individual and specific threats to me or my family,” Chong said in a statement on Monday.
Chong said the government should have informed him of the CSIS report and that the diplomat responsible for the “intimidation campaign” should be expelled from Canada.
Amid the outcry, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday that he too learned about the threats against Chong from the Globe report and, after enquiring about it, found out the CSIS had decided to withhold information.
“CSIS made the determination that it wasn’t something that needed to be raised to a higher level because it wasn’t a significant enough concern,” he explained, adding that he had told the agency such threats must be revealed immediately in the future.
“Going forward, we’re making it very, very clear to CSIS and all our intelligence officials that when there are concerns that talk specifically about any MP, particularly about their family, those need to be elevated,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister has previously said China attempted to meddle in Canadian elections in 2019 and 2021, but said the alleged interference did not change the outcome. He has appointed an independent special investigator to probe the allegations.
Beijing has denied those allegations, saying it has no interest in interfering in Canada’s internal affairs.