Beijing “strongly deplores” Canada’s foreign interference inquiry, and the Chinese embassy is warning of “consequences” if the country does not drop its “ideological bias.”
The comments from the Chinese embassy in Canada come after the federal government announced the public inquiry Thursday, tapping a Quebec judge to lead the probe after a months-long search.
Allegations of Chinese foreign interference in Canadian elections and society have dominated the political scene in Ottawa for much of the year; the new inquiry will probe not only Beijing, but Russia as well as other foreign states and non-state actors during the 2019 and 2021 general elections at the national and electoral district levels.
“On Sept. 7, the Canadian Government announced the launch of a public inquiry into foreign interference by China and other countries, and continued to hype up the lies of the so-called ‘China’s interference in Canada’s internal affairs.’ China strongly deplores and firmly opposes this,” an embassy spokesperson said in an email Friday.
“China urges the Canadian side to abandon its ideological bias, stop hyping up China-related lies and false information, stop misleading the public and stop undermining China-Canada relations. Otherwise, Canada will have to bear the consequences.”
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The spokesperson did not elaborate on what the consequences could be.
Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc, who is also the minister for democratic institutions, revealed Thursday that Marie-Josée Hogue, a puisne judge of the Court of Appeal of Quebec, has been tapped to lead the inquiry under the Inquiries Act.
Hogue’s appointment comes after a months-long search for a judge to head an inquiry after former governor general David Johnston, the special rapporteur looking into allegations of foreign interference, resigned from the role in June amid accusations of bias.
LeBlanc added Hogue will have to present an interim report by Feb. 29, 2024, and a final report in December of that year; Hogue will take the helm on Sept. 18.
LeBlanc explains decision to include countries outside China in foreign interference inquiry
“This is a global challenge for democracies. China is not the only country that seeks to interfere in an inappropriate way,” LeBlanc said, noting he has spoken with his counterpart in the U.K. over the summer about the challenges they are seeing with foreign interference.
“We did not want to restrict it to one country alone.”
Foreign interference has been a persistent issue in Ottawa this year amid reporting on allegations of Chinese meddling in Canada from The Globe and Mail and Global News.
As stories broke, so did revelations that Beijing attempted to target sitting politicians, including Tory MP Michael Chong.
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In May, the federal government confirmed a Globe and Mail report that CSIS had information in 2021 that Beijing was looking at ways to intimidate Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong.
China has denied the allegations that it targeted Chong after the MP voted in February 2021 in favour of a motion in the House of Commons condemning China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority as a genocide.
The spat led to both nations expelling diplomats in a tit-for-tat move and prompted a policy change for CSIS to inform MPs of threats, no matter how serious.
Foreign interference inquiry: Quebec judge Marie-Josée Hogue to lead probe
Since then, NDP MP Jenny Kwan has said CSIS has told her that she’s been a target of Chinese government interference. She said the interference attempts date back to the 2019 federal election but are believed to be ongoing.
The embassy spokesperson reiterated China’s denial of the interference allegations Friday, and claimed some Canadian politicians and media are “spreading lies and disinformation” to discredit China.
With the relations between the two countries at a low point, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that rapprochement with China isn’t in the cards right now.
“Rapprochement? No,” he said.
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