(Beijing) China on Friday denounced the “slander” and “defamation” of which it considers itself the victim after the summoning by Canada of its ambassador, amid accusations of intimidation against a conservative MP hostile to Beijing.
Bilateral relations have been strained since the arrest in 2018 by Canadian authorities of an official of the Chinese telecom group Huawei and the imprisonment in reprisal by China of two Canadian nationals.
While all three have since been released, tensions have continued, with Beijing blaming Ottawa for its alignment with Washington’s China policy and Canadian authorities regularly accusing China of interference.
In this context, the Globe and Mail daily published a report on Monday precisely deeming that Ottawa has turned a blind eye to alleged Chinese “interference” in the internal affairs of Canada.
Conservative MP Michael Chong and his family are said to have suffered Chinese pressure because of the parliamentarian’s criticism of Beijing, particularly on the issue of the Uyghurs.
Under pressure, the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Chinese ambassador on Thursday to discuss these allegations of intimidation and could also respond by expelling diplomats.
“Canada unfoundedly slanders and defames the normal operation of Chinese embassies and consulates in Canada,” Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters on Friday.
“China is very unhappy with it and is firmly against it,” she said, adding that the Chinese ambassador had “told the official of the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs” his “strong protests”.
Opposition MPs demanded this week that Justin Trudeau’s government take responsibility in this case, which is causing an outcry in Canada.
Citing classified documents and an unnamed source, the Globe and Mail says China’s intelligence agency planned to target MK Michael Chong for voting in February 2021 in favor of a motion equating China’s treatment to its Uyghur minority to “genocide”.
An official from the Chinese Consulate in Toronto is believed to be involved in this case.
“I would like to emphasize that Chinese diplomatic and consular personnel in Canada have always abided by international conventions and performed their duties according to law,” Chinese spokeswoman Mao Ning said Friday.
“China will take necessary measures to safeguard its interests,” she pledged.
The Uyghurs, mainly Muslims, are the main ethnic group in Xinjiang (Northwest China), a region long hit by bloody attacks attributed by the authorities to Islamists and Uyghur separatists.
In the name of anti-terrorism, the Chinese authorities launched a vast campaign of repression in the mid-2010s. The United States speaks of “genocide”. The UN raises the possibility of crimes against humanity.
In the company of two other American personalities, Michael Chong was sanctioned in March 2021 by Beijing, in response to the first sanctions from Canada and the United States against China on this subject.
Those targeted were banned from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said at the time.
Western studies accuse China of having interned more than a million Uyghurs and members of other Muslim ethnic groups in “re-education camps”, even imposing “forced labor” and “forced sterilizations”.
China denounces biased reports, manipulated statistics and speaks of “vocational training centers” intended to develop employment and eradicate extremism among the population.
Prime Minister Trudeau is under increasing pressure to speak out against Beijing, following allegations that China sought to influence the results of the 2019 and 2021 Canadian elections.
These accusations have been strongly denied by Beijing.
Canadian Federal Police also claim to have dismantled several illegal “Chinese police stations” in Canada, allegedly set up to harass Chinese expatriates hostile to Beijing.