(TORONTO) In the Toronto riding of MP Han Dong on Friday, residents expressed hope that the full light would be shed on alleged Chinese interference in the Canadian election. But in the meantime, they were generally careful not to condemn their new independent deputy, who enjoys the presumption of innocence.

Mr. Dong resigned Wednesday evening from the Liberal caucus, amid what he considers to be false allegations. According to a Global News report, he advised a Chinese diplomat on what the government considered a high-priority file: the arbitrary detention of two Canadians in China — “the two Michaels.”

Joanna Leung, 40, a mother of two, who lives in Mr. Dong’s riding in northeast Toronto, said Friday she had “mixed feelings” about the whole affair.

Ms. Leung, who was born in China, said one of the reasons her family moved from Hong Kong to Ontario in the 1990s – before Beijing regained control of the British colony in 1997 – was the little trust they had in the Chinese Communist Party.

“I have already witnessed how the Chinese government influences people, so if there is any Chinese influence on Canadian politicians, it will be of great concern to my family,” she said. She also pointed out that it would be “alarming” for an MP to be disloyal to Canada.

But neither should all Chinese be tied to the government in Beijing, she adds. “I have negative feelings towards the communist government, not against the Chinese people. These are two very separate things and I hope we can sort this out, be very clear and not contribute to more prejudice against the Chinese people.

“What I don’t want to see is prejudice against certain communities simply because of their ethnicity. It goes against the values ​​we stand for in Canada,” said Ms. Leung, a project manager.

Global News quoted unnamed security sources on Wednesday as claiming that MP Dong spoke about Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig with a Chinese diplomat in Toronto in February 2021.

At the time, the two Canadians had been detained in China for just over two years, in apparent retaliation for the December 2018 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a US extradition warrant. .

Beijing, which has denied the interference allegations, has dismissed any connection between the “two Michaels” and Ms. Meng, despite a perfect alignment in the timeline of events — when each was detained in December 2018 and then released. in September 2021.

According to Global News, Mr. Dong allegedly told the Chinese consul general in Toronto that releasing the “two Michaels” would benefit the Conservatives, but that showing some “progress” in the case would help the Liberals. The Canadian Press could not independently verify the claims of these unnamed sources.

MP Dong agreed that he met with the Chinese diplomat, but he rejects any suggestion that he urged Beijing to delay the release of the two Canadians. On the verge of tears, he declared in the House on Wednesday evening that he would defend himself “against these absolutely false assertions” and he assured that he had never done anything to cause harm to MM. Spavor and Kovrig.

The Chinese consulate in Toronto called the allegations “completely baseless.” Without giving details of that meeting with Mr. Dong in February 2021, the consulate said its staff “never undertook” to breach diplomatic protocol.

Mr. Dong voted Thursday with opposition parties in favor of a motion that calls for a public inquiry into all allegations of foreign interference.

Anne Abeyesekera works opposite Mr. Dong’s constituency office in this Don Valley North constituency — where the doors were locked on Friday. She maintains that she takes the matter seriously, but adds that the allegations “must be proven” before she throws stones. “Everyone has the right to be treated fairly and equitably. »

Rahim Khan, a mortgage broker in the sector, also reserves judgment until he has more details, while agreeing that the allegations are very serious. “To put the safety of an entire country and the two Michaels (in danger), it is extremely serious. I was very surprised when I heard that, but I don’t want to rush into judging anyone. »

Mir Ali Asgary, another broker in the industry, puts these allegations against Mr. Dong with all his frustrations with the Trudeau government in general.

“I’m skeptical of the current leadership and certainly don’t trust them,” he said in an interview in his office.

Former Governor General David Johnston has been appointed by the Prime Minister as a “special rapporteur” to determine if a public inquiry into foreign interference is needed. He has until May 23 to make his recommendations, although he was given a mandate until October to complete his broader investigation into foreign interference.