Ottawa : Canada has decided to expel a Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei following an uproar in the country over allegations of political meddling.
However, Beijing has fiercely denied any election interference, calling the claims "purely baseless and defamatory". "Canada has decided to declare persona non grata Mr. Zhao Wei," read a statement by Foreign Minister Melanie Joly.
"I have been clear: we will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs. Diplomats in Canada have been warned that if they engage in this type of behaviour, they will be sent home," she added.
"This decision has been taken after careful consideration of all factors at play. We remain firm in our resolve that defending our democracy is of the utmost importance," the statement read.
This move will further deteriorate diplomatic relations between the two countries. This development comes after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March this year announced to investigate alleged Chinese interference in their recent elections by an independent special rapporteur.
The Canadian Government appointed former Governor General David Johnston as its Independent Special Rapporteur to examine alleged interference by Beijing in the federal elections in 2019 and 2021.
Johnston was given access to relevant classified or unclassified records and documents, and he will submit regular reports to the prime minister, Trudeau's office said in a statement.
The news comes after weeks of uproar in Canada sparked by revelations, first reported by the Globe and Mail newspaper, that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service found an accredited Chinese diplomat in the country had targeted opposition leader Michael Chong and his relatives in China after his criticisms of Beijing's treatment of its Uyghur minorities.
The intelligence service said that Beijing had tried to sway the outcome of Canada's federal elections in 2019 and 2021. Chong has repeatedly called for Zhao's expulsion since the Globe report emerged, CNN reported.
Beijing has denied accusations of political interference in Canada. In a statement dated May 5 and posted to the website of the Chinese Consulate in Toronto, a spokesperson flatly rejected the possibility "that a consular officer from the Chinese Consulate General in Toronto was involved in the so-called intimidation of a Canadian Member of Parliament and his relatives."
"The claim has no factual basis and is totally groundless. We express strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to it," it said, going on to accuse local media and politicians of seeking to "disrupt the normal exchange and cooperation" between Canada and China, CNN reported.
The allegations have become a growing political problem for the government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has said that intelligence services failed to brief him on Chong's alleged targeting.
Chong has focused much of his criticism on Trudeau's government. He said that Trudeau's government was too slow to act.