Beijing denies meddling after MP Han Dong's resignation from Liberal caucus
Published Thursday, March 23, 2023 12:20PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, March 23, 2023 2:28PM EDT
OTTAWA -- Beijing says it has nothing to say about ongoing allegations that China has meddled in Canadian affairs, including those regarding a member of Parliament who resigned from the Liberal caucus.
Han Dong announced Wednesday night that he will now sit as an Independent while a rapporteur investigates claims of Chinese interference, including allegations the Toronto MP willingly received electoral support through Chinese officials.
"We have no interest in, and will not interfere in, Canada's internal affairs," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday, when asked about Dong's resignation.
"There should be no irresponsible comments on this," reads the official English transcript of a press conference in Beijing.
Dong resigned from his party after Global News published a report, citing unnamed security sources, alleging that he spoke about Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig with a Chinese diplomat in Toronto in February 2021.
The MP said he met with the diplomat but disputes any suggestion that he urged China to delay releasing the two Canadian men, who by that point had been detained for more than two years.
Dong told the House of Commons he would defend himself "against these absolutely untrue claims" and that he did nothing to cause Spavor and Kovrig any harm.
Wenbin said "the Canadian side may be in a better position" to comment, and that "China opposes interference in other countries' internal affairs."
China's Toronto consulate similarly called the claims "utterly groundless" and asked media to "stop smearing and attacking China" with such claims.
"They have seriously misled Canadian public opinion about China, jeopardized China-Canadian relations and damaged China's image," reads a statement the consulate posted Thursday morning.
The consulate says its staff "have never engaged" in breaching diplomatic protocol, and did not elaborate on the February 2021 discussion with Dong.
"It is the responsibility of consular posts to have extensive contacts and carry out friendly exchanges with local governments and all circles of society," the consulate wrote.
China's detention of the men who became known around the world as the "two Michaels" occurred in apparent retaliation for the December 2018 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition warrant.
Beijing has insisted the cases are not linked, despite a close alignment in the timing of each being detained and then released the same day in September 2021.
The Canadian Press has approached Kovrig and Spavor for comment.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2023.