China slams Canada's 'slander' after ambassador summoned

"China is strongly dissatisfied with Canada's groundless slander and defamation of the normal performance of duties by the Chinese embassy and consulates in Canada."

Published - May 06, 2023 03:26 am IST - Beijing

China slammed what it called "groundless slander and defamation" by Canada on Friday after Ottawa summoned Beijing's Ambassador over accusations a Chinese diplomat sought to intimidate a Canadian lawmaker and his family.

Parliamentarian Michael Chong has led an outcry in Canada following a damning report this week by the Globe and Mail newspaper that said Ottawa had turned a blind eye to interference by Beijing in Canadian affairs.

The newspaper said China's intelligence agency had planned to target Mr. Chong 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.

A diplomatic official at China's consulate in Toronto was reported to be involved in the intrigue, prompting Ottawa to summon China's Ambassador on Thursday and say it was "assessing different options including the expulsion of diplomats".

"China is strongly dissatisfied with Canada's groundless slander and defamation of the normal performance of duties by the Chinese embassy and consulates in Canada," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said on Friday.

Beijing had "lodged a strong protest" with Canada's ambassador to China, Ms. Mao added.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa also hit out at the summoning of Ambassador Cong Peiwu.

"Driven by ideological bias, some Canadian politicians and media have been manipulating China-related issues, attacking and discrediting China," the embassy quoted Cong as having said in a meeting with a senior Canadian diplomatic official.

"China's diplomatic and consular officials' normal performance must not be smeared, and China's sovereignty, security and development interests must not be violated."

The Foreign Ministry denied any wrongdoing, insisting the scandal had been "hyped up by some Canadian politicians and media".

Ms. Mao said the claims were "complete nonsense and a political farce".

"It is entirely legitimate and necessary for China to respond forcefully," she said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faced growing pressure to take a hard line with Beijing following revelations that it sought to sway Canada's 2019 and 2021 elections.

The accusations, which Beijing has denied, have become the focus of parliamentary committee hearings and investigations by Canada's elections agency.

Federal police have also dismantled several illegal Chinese police stations in Canada allegedly set up to harass Chinese expatriates.

Mr. Trudeau earlier said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had withheld information about Chinese threats against Chong two years ago.

"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 said.

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