In retaliation for Canada’s firing of Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei on May 8, China expelled Canadian diplomat Jennifer Lynn Lalonde on Tuesday. Zhao was expelled as a result of recent press reports that claimed he was involved in a scheme to intimidate and sway Canadians, including students and MPs, who oppose China.

According to speculation, Canada’s action was motivated by a study issued in 2021 by its spy service, the Canadian Security spy Service (CSIS). It included details on Chinese sway and potential dangers to Michael Chong’s safety as a Canadian lawmaker who has raised concerns about China’s human rights record. Although the CSIS study has not yet been made public, these details were reported on May 1 by the Canadian daily The Globe and Mail.

The Canadian government has chosen to designate Mr. Zhao Wei as persona non grata, according to a statement made by Mélanie Joly, the country’s minister of foreign affairs, on May 8. We won’t allow any kind of foreign meddling in our domestic issues, as I have made clear. Canadian diplomats have been informed that they will be expelled if they continue to act in this way. The minister made no explicit justifications.

The following day, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a statement in which it declared Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, the consul general of Canada in Shanghai, to be persona non grata as a retaliatory measure in response to Canada’s dishonest action. Persona non grata in international relations denotes a diplomat who has been summoned home by their host nation.

The relationships between the two nations have long been characterised by a feeling of mistrust and accusations. This is what has taken place thus far.

According to The Globe and Mail, the CSIS study provides “an overview of Chinese government foreign interference in Canada, ranging from investigating a Conservative MP’s relatives in China to harassing a mainland Chinese student in Canada who publicly supported Hong Kong’s democracy movement.” Zhao and Chong were also included in the report.

Although Chong claimed to be unaware of any such plots against him, he added that given recent concerns about China’s influence, the expulsion of a Chinese diplomat was long time. Since both Joly and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern about repercussions from Beijing, the Canadian government took its time deciding whether to move forward with the decision, according to the AP.

However, reports of Chinese meddling are nothing new.

Tong Xiaoling, China’s former consul general in Vancouver, allegedly sought to “groom” local Chinese Canadian politicians to serve Beijing’s interests after Ken Sim was elected mayor of Vancouver this year, according to reports in The Globe and Mail and The New York Times. Sim, who was elected to the position as the first Chinese Canadian, refuted the accusations and claimed they were made only because of his race.

Trudeau appointed an impartial investigator in March 2023 to provide a report on any attempts by China to sway the 2021 and 2019 federal elections in Canada. Former governor general David Johnston was chosen by the prime minister to investigate the matter and determine whether a public inquiry was necessary.

Another MP, Han Dong, resigned from Trudeau’s Liberal Party after allegations that the party choose him above other candidates due to the Chinese government’s backing in the recent federal elections. The PM then voiced general concerns about Beijing’s election intervention, but he rejected the notion that China would actually be successful in influencing election outcomes.

The present unrest started after Canadian authorities detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in December 2018. Meng Wanzhou is Ren Zhenfei’s daughter and the company’s founder. The corporation was accused of misrepresenting US authorities over its dealings with Iran, which was subject to US trade sanctions, and this was done at their instruction.

According to the BBC, the corporation was also accused of bank fraud and technology theft, and worries were mounting regarding Chinese enterprises’ capacity to spy on consumers for the Chinese government. China, however, reacted angrily to the arrest as was to be expected, despite Canada’s claims that it was merely carrying out its duty under the extradition agreement it had with the US.

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