Context: The Canadian government declared Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei “persona non grata,” for allegedly targeting a Canadian lawmaker critical of China’s human rights record. Hours later, China announced a “reciprocal countermeasure” by asking Jennnifer Lynn Lalonde, a top diplomat in the Canadian consulate in Shanghai, to leave the country by May 13. Tensions soared with China saying it holds the “right to take further actions in response”, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put out a strongly worded statement, reiterating that Canada will not be intimidated.
History of straining Canada-China ties?
- Diplomatic ties between China and Canada have been unsteady for the past few years, especially after Canadian police arrested Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou on charges of fraud in 2018. A few days after her arrest, China detained two Canadians on spying charges a move then called “hostage diplomacy”
- China had suspended imports of canola from Canada, alleging pests in the shipment
- Canada has also alleged that the Chinese government attempted to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections a charge Beijing vehemently denies.
- The two countries are also engaged in a technology battle. While Canada has limited the presence of Chinese firms in its communications infrastructure, Beijing believes the restrictions were imposed without any solid evidence.
- The tension between the leadership was also visible at the G-20 summit in Indonesia last year, when Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Canadian PM exchanged barbs over leaked details of their meeting about Chinese interference in domestic affairs.
The Recent Spat:
- At the centre of the latest spat is a report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
- A series of media reports also highlighted about growing Chinese interference in Canada, a report on an intel document from 2021 which detailed potential threats to opposition lawmaker Michael Chong and his family in Hong Kong over the latter’s criticism of Beijing. Citing an anonymous national security official as its source, the newspaper reported that Chinese consul Zhao Wei was involved in gathering information about Mr. Chong and his family in Hong Kong to target him over his anti-Chinese sentiments
- Michael Chong was targeted because he led legislative efforts in Canada’s House of Commons to declare China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang as “genocide”. In response, Beijing barred his entry into China.
- After details of the CSIS report were revealed, the Canadian government was heavily criticised for its inaction against China. Internal deliberations followed about the future course of action, seemingly to prepare for any economic repercussions since China is Canada’s second-biggest trade partner.
- Canada declared diplomat Zhao Wei “persona non grata” (Latin for an unwelcome person). Canada reiterated that it would “not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs.”
- China also responded strongly on actions of Canada, warning of retaliatory measures.
- Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin had urged Canada to stop “unreasonable provocations”. Later China issued an order asking Ms. Lalonde to leave the country.
The future course of diplomatic relations between the two countries will be sharply observed by neighbouring countries like USA, India etc which are themselves having contentious relationship with China and are apprehensive of aggressive rise of China at regional and global level.