In Canada, China

joly canada is expelling chinese diplomat zhao wei
Photo of former Toronto-based Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei Photo: Weibo

Article originally published by Chen Qingqing on May 9, 2023 by Global Times,

China and Canada are engaged in a rare, high-profile diplomatic row as Beijing declared a consul of the Consulate General of Canada in Shanghai as “persona non grata” on Tuesday and asked the Canadian diplomat to leave China before May 13, a necessary and legitimate countermeasure in response to the unreasonable move by the Canadian side of hyping “China’s interference” and expelling a Chinese diplomat.

Some Chinese observers point out that it’s a rare move for China to expel a foreign diplomat, but Canada appears to have become a leading anti-China force in the US-led small clique. Its China policy has become even more confrontational than that of Washington, which has dragged Canada-China relations into the deep freeze. The current anti-China waves across Canadian politics and public opinion could be seen as a Canadian version of McCarthyism in the 21st century, fully highlighting the lack of strategic vision and continuity of the Ottawa’s China policy, some observers said.

In response to Canada’s unreasonable expulsion of a Chinese diplomat, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday that the consul of the Consulate General of Canada in Shanghai has been designated “persona non grata” and been asked to leave China before May 13.

On May 9, the Canadian government declared a diplomat of the Consulate-General of China in Toronto “persona non grata.” China strongly condemns and firmly opposes this and has lodged serious démarches and a strong protest to Canada, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday.

As a reciprocal countermeasure in reaction to Canada’s move, China declared Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, consul of the Consulate General of Canada in Shanghai persona non grata, who has been asked to leave China no later than May 13. And China reserves the right to take further measures, the spokesperson said.

The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs announced on Monday the expulsion of Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei after days of pressure from opposition parties, who accused Zhao of targeting Conservative MP Michael Chong’s family who live in Hong Kong, according to Canadian media reports.

Commenting on the decision to declare the Canadian diplomat in Shanghai “persona non grata,” Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a press conference on Tuesday that in disregard to China’s serious démarches, Canada openly declared the Chinese diplomat “persona non grata” on the grounds of so-called China’s interference in Canada’s internal affairs. China strongly condemns and firmly opposes this.

China has never interfered in other countries’ internal affairs. The so-called Chinese interference in Canada’s internal affairs is complete nonsense, a smear against China and a political manipulation based on ideology. The latest move of the Canadian side violates the basic norms governing international relations and deliberately undermines China-Canada relations, which is of a very bad nature, Wang said.

“This is necessary for China to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests. It [the countermeasure] is completely legitimate and necessary,” he said.

‘Canadian version of McCarthyism’

This year is the 100th anniversary of Canada’s infamous Chinese Exclusion Act, the history of which the North American country should have reflected upon. However, Canada explicitly or implicitly listed China as a hostile country, setting off waves of hostility in its publicity, investigation and even legislation against the so-called China’s interference in Canada, Yao Peng, deputy secretary-general of the Canadian Studies Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

“It’s like a Canadian version of a 21st century McCarthyist trend targeting China,” Yao said, who pointed out that witch-hunting move against Chinese-Canadian politicians and voters based on groundless accusations could foster conditions for exclusion, hostility and even persecution of people of Chinese descent by the whole Canadian society and people.

Some Canadian media, citing so-called classified documents and anonymous security source, reported that China’s intelligence agency planned to target Chong and his relatives with sanctions for having voted in February 2021 for a motion condemning China’s policy in Xinjiang region as “genocide.”

Some also made allegations against Chinese-Canadians, accusing them of lobbying Chinese diplomats for partisan political gain, which has evolved into a series of rows over so-called China’s interference in “advanced Western democracies,” according to media reports.

“The fundamental reason that Canada made those baseless allegations against China is that the country has been enhancing its strategic coordination with the US, and this expulsion could signal the start of a series of tit-for-tat moves,” Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

As Canada’s China policy looks set to become more and more confrontational, there will not be any change in its policy-decision process, and its China policy appears to be on the brink of a downward spiral, following a trajectory like the US’ China policy of the past few years, Li said.

‘To respond resolutely and forcefully’

Some observers believe that expelling diplomats is a reckless act rarely used by countries, because international diplomatic practice has long been one of reciprocal retaliation. This sees the expulsion of diplomats as almost a declaration of enmity with the other side.

However, China is not the side that intends to escalate the situation given its reaction is rational but powerful, they said. It also depends on how the Canadian side will react – whether it will make the situation even worse or attempt to control the damage.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang said at the press conference that “We will not waver in our resolve to uphold China’s interests. We urge Canada to stop its provocation at once. If Canada decides to continue its wanton act, China will react firmly and all consequences arising therefrom must be borne by Canada.”

Following US’ malicious containment move, Canada-China relations have been continuing on a downward trend, especially since the incident involving Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou, and there is no sign of easing, Yao said. “Even when some major European countries seek to improve ties with China, Canada has been a leading anti-China force,” he said.

Undoubtedly, Canada’s anti-China stance has been worse than that of the US, which makes the current China-Canada relations ice cold, Yao said.

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