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Canada and China have mutually expelled diplomats in tit-for-tat moves after Canada first booted a Chinese diplomat based in Toronto, Zhao Wei, which happened Monday.

The Canadian government has accused him of political interference, allegations first revealed in a leaked report written by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). The CSIS report “found an accredited Chinese diplomat in the country had taken efforts toward targeting opposition lawmaker Michael Chong and relatives who may be in China.” Beijing has called it “lies”.

“The alleged targeting took place after Chong sponsored a motion to condemn China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority group,” according to CNN. “The intelligence was first reported by Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail earlier this month.”

The episode comes following widespread reports as well as accusations from Western officials that Chinese intelligence and diplomatic officials have engaged in intimidation campaigns abroad, aimed at political dissidents and their families.

In Chong’s case, he was apparently targeted in an intimidation campaign due to his having spent years spearheading Canada’s legislative efforts slap an official label of “genocide” on China’s human rights abuses, especially connected with treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to hold China accountable, telling reporters on Tuesday, “we will not be intimidated. We will continue to do everything necessary to keep Canadians protected from foreign interference.”

Beijing was swift in its retaliation, with the foreign ministry responding Tuesday by decrying the “smear campaign against China” rooted in “ideologically based political manipulation” that is “nonsensical” and “lies”.

Diplomat Zhao Wei has been declared ‘persona non grata’

The foreign ministry introduced “reciprocal countermeasure in reaction to Canada’s unscrupulous move” – which at this point includes expelling Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, a Canadian diplomat based in Shanghai. China has given her four days to leave the country.

Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin further said, “We advise the Canadian side to immediately stop unreasonable provocations,” Wang added. “If the Canadian side does not listen to advice and acts recklessly, China will resolutely and forcefully respond.” Thus the deteriorating situation seems primed to expand, possibly into further diplomatic expulsions, or even trade restriction measures.


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