(Ottawa) Splashed by explosive allegations that he advised the Chinese consul to delay the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor for the political benefit of his party, Liberal MP Han Dong is stepping down from caucus.
The Liberal MP spoke late Wednesday evening in the House of Commons to announce that he would now sit as an independent. In a speech that he concluded in tears, he categorically denied having suggested to a senior official to postpone the release of the two Michaels.
A few hours earlier, New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh had demanded that Justin Trudeau expel the Ontario elected official from his caucus in light of the explosive new allegations against him.
“These are extremely serious allegations. If true, the safety of Canadians has been put at risk for political purposes. Prime Minister Trudeau must remove Han Dong from caucus and these allegations must be fully investigated,” the NDP leader wrote on Twitter Wednesday evening.
On the strength of two confidential sources, the Global News network reported that the elected Ontario representative would have recommended to the Chinese consul general in Toronto that Beijing wait before letting go of the two Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were arbitrarily detained in China.
The principal concerned denied the information from Global News, which La Presse could not independently confirm. He admitted to having spoken with the consul, while the Canadian nationals languished behind bars for more than two years, but “to call for their immediate release”, he said.
“On every occasion before they returned home, I categorically demanded their immediate release. Any suggestion to the contrary is false and an attempt to mislead you and your readers and slander me,” Han Dong wrote in a statement provided to the English-language network.
A spokeswoman for Canadian Prime Minister Alison Murphy told Global News that the existence of the interview was unknown to them so far, and that Han Dong had never acted as an unofficial negotiator (” back channel”) of the government in this matter.
Justin Trudeau’s office has not announced its intentions regarding the MP’s presence in caucus.
“This is serious information of actions that threaten the foundation of our Canadian democracy. The hiding places must be stopped. We must stop the cover-up, ”reacted Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre on Twitter.
The two Michaels were arrested in Beijing in December 2018 a few days after the arrest in Canada, at the request of the United States, of the financial director of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou.
On September 24, a few days after being re-elected, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the two men were returning to Canada after more than 1,000 days behind bars. Their release came after the British Columbia Supreme Court agreed to release Ms. Meng.
“If it’s true that Han Dong said that, he’s a dishonorable person, and then you can almost say that it’s starting to border on treason,” said Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador, in an interview. of Canada in China from 2012 to 2016.
This is not the first time that Han Dong’s ties to China have made headlines. In late February, Global News reported that the Chinese Communist Party had maneuvered to favor its victory in the race for the Liberal nomination in the riding of Don Valley North.
In parliament on Tuesday the MP spoke to reporters for the first time since the allegations were published. He again denied that Beijing played a role in his victory, and said he had received “hateful” comments as well as death threats in recent weeks.
Prime Minister Trudeau has come to the defense of his MP more than once.
But the accumulation of allegations against him is starting to weigh heavily, believes Guy Saint-Jacques.
“There are several questions that arise about Han Dong. I think what was revealed by CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligence Service] is probably true, the people at the consulate did the main thing to get him re-elected,” he said. .
“Soon we’re going to have to buy a lie detector and hook up a lot of people in Ottawa on it,” concluded the former Ottawa envoy to Beijing.