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China says reciprocal expulsion of Canadian diplomat 'just and necessary'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Canadian and Chinese flags are seen. (File Photo)

China has expelled a Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move after Canada declared a Chinese envoy ‘persona non grata’ over allegations he was involved in efforts to intimidate a Canadian politician.

In a statement on Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry said the “just and necessary” expulsion of the Canadian diplomat Jennifer Lynn Lalonde was a “reciprocal countermeasure”, as it strongly condemned the expulsion of Toronto-based Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei.

“China strongly condemns and firmly opposes this and has lodged serious demarches and strong protest to Canada,” China's Foreign Ministry said in its statement.

“The expulsion of the Canadian diplomat was just and necessary. China's determination to protect its legitimate interests will not waver,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing hours after Beijing announced it would expel Lalonde.

“China never interferes in other countries' internal affairs. The expulsion of a Chinese diplomat violates rules governing international relations,” Wenbin added.

The move might escalate already tense relations between the two countries. Both diplomats have five days to exit the countries.

The move by Ottawa follows a Canadian intelligence report, which emerged in the Globe and Mail newspaper, that accused Zhao of being involved in gathering information about opposition lawmaker, Michael Chong and his relatives.

Last Thursday, Canada summoned China's ambassador to reiterate that Canada would not tolerate what it called 'interference' in its affairs.

“Canada will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs” and that the decision to expel the diplomat had “been taken after careful consideration of all factors at play,” Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, Mélanie Joly, said on Monday, after declaring Zhao a “persona non grata".

China's Toronto consulate-general rejected the allegations and said the report on Chong has “no factual basis and is purely baseless.”

Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesperson warned that China would “resolutely and forcefully respond” if the Canadian government “keeps acting recklessly” and said Canadian media and some politicians are “fabricating false information.”

Justin Trudeau, Canadian prime minister, previously accused China of attempting to meddle in the 2019 and 2021 votes but said that the efforts did not change the outcome. He has appointed an independent special investigator to probe the issue.

Moreover, Canadian media outlets have also published several reports, citing anonymous intelligence sources, alleging schemes run by the Chinese government to interfere in Canada's last two elections. Beijing has denied those allegations.

Diplomatic tensions between Canada and China have been running high since the detention of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 and Beijing's subsequent arrest of two Canadians on spying charges. All three were freed in 2021.

Meng who was released in September, was arrested over charges of selling goods and thus breaking the sanctions imposed by Washington against Iran.

China has previously insisted it does not interfere in other countries' internal affairs and has no interest in doing so, but says it will respond to what it calls provocations.

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