Canadian diplomat expelled from China in retaliation for similar move by Ottawa


China has declared a Canadian diplomat as “persona non grata” in retaliation for Ottawa’s expulsion of a Chinese consular official over allegations of foreign interference.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service alleged Zhao Wei, a consular officer for China in Toronto, was involved in a plot to intimidate Conservative MP Michael Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Monday Canada had declared Zhao as “persona non grata.”

China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted to its English website early Tuesday that China was deploying a “reciprocal countermeasure to Canada’s unscrupulous move,” which it said it “strongly condemns and firmly opposes.”

The statement said Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, consul of the Consulate General of Canada in Shanghai, has been asked to leave before May 13, and that China reserves the right to further react.

Before the cabinet meeting in Ottawa Tuesday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would stand firm.

“We will take whatever action is necessary to continue to protect our democracy and show that we’re standing up for our values and our principles,” Trudeau told reporters Tuesday morning as he headed into a meeting with his cabinet on Parliament Hill.

“We understand there is retaliation but we will not be intimidated,” he added. “We will continue to do everything necessary to keep Canadians protected from interference.”

Calls for Zhao to be expelled began last week after a report in the Globe and Mail that CSIS had information in 2021 that the Chinese government was looking at ways to intimidate Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong. The federal government has confirmed that report.

Following Joly’s announcement, China’s embassy in Ottawa issued a statement that accused Canada of breaching international law and acting based on anti-Chinese sentiment.

It said the move “sabotaged” relations between China and Canada, according to an official English translation provided by the embassy, and promised unspecified retaliatory measures.

Trudeau said Tuesday that his government had taken the potential for retaliation, including economic countermeasures, by China into account when it decided to expel the envoy.

He also said Joly is “looking very carefully” into next steps, including whether to change Canada’s advice on travelling to China.

“We will always do whatever is necessary to keep Canadians safe,” Trudeau said.

The current travel advisory asks Canadians to “exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”