Han Dong resigns from Liberal caucus, denies interference allegations
Han Dong has announced he will be sitting as an independent MP after being the subject of allegations involving interference by China in Canadian affairs.
"I will continue to serve the residents of Don Valley North as an independent member of this House. I'm taking these extraordinary steps because sitting in the government caucus is a privilege, and my presence there may be seen as some as a conflict of duty," Dong told the House of Commons on Wednesday evening.
"I will be sitting as an independent to ensure that the business of government, and indeed, the business of parliament, is not interrupted as I work to clear my name."
Citing unnamed "national security sources," Global News reported on Wednesday that Dong had suggested to a senior Chinese diplomat in February 2021 that China should delay releasing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor -- the two Canadians who had been imprisoned in China from 2018 to 2021 -- in order to avoid benefitting the Conservative Party.
Dong admitted in the Global News report he had spoken with the Chinese official to discuss the two Michaels, but denied the allegations that he pushed for their release to be delayed. In the House, he told MPs he did "nothing to cause any harm" to the two Michaels and "worked hard and advocated for their interest."
“The allegations made against me are as false as the ones made against you,” Dong said, referring to Kovrig and Spavor in his remarks.
Last month, Global News also reported Dong was preferred by Beijing over another Chinese Canadian Liberal, and that he was a “witting affiliate” of Chinese interference networks.
CTV News has not independently verified any of these allegations.
"Media reports today quoted unverified and anonymous sources (that) have attacked my reputation and called into question my loyalty to Canada. Let me be clear, what has been reported is false. And I will defend myself against these absolutely untrue claims," he said in the House.
Dong became emotional when he started speaking about his family. “The truth will protect us,” he said. Upon concluding, Dong received applause by some Liberal MPs in the chamber.
Speaking to CTV News in the foyer, a few Liberal MPs said it was a difficult evening and discussed how important due process is.
“I’m confident that when the truth is revealed and all of this has then transpired, we’ll have a better understanding as to what has happened. In the meantime, I’m going to give him the respect to make the decision that he’s made… I know he cares about our country,” said Mississauga-Lakeshore, Ont. MP Liberal MP Charles Sousa, who worked with Dong in the Ontario legislature. Dong was first elected in 2018 and had previously served as a provincial MPP.
Prior to Dong's announcement, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre tweeted that the allegations were "serious reports of actions that threaten the core of our Canadian democracy," and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for Dong to be removed from the Liberal caucus pending an investigation of the "extremely serious allegations."
Both leaders restated their calls for an independent public inquiry into foreign meddling in Canadian affairs.
Dong is not the only politician caught up in allegations of foreign interference.
Ontario MPP Vincent Ke, who represents the same riding as Dong, resigned from the Progressive Conservative caucus earlier this month after he was alleged in a Global News report to have been involved in Chinese interference networks -- allegations that Ke denies.
With files from CTV News’ Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Rachel Aiello and CTV National News Producer Rachel Hanes