Laughable for Liberals to say they ‘won’t tolerate’ Chinese interference

“Persona non grata.” In diplomatic circles, those three words are the equivalent of excommunication. Under Article 9 of the 1963 Vienna Convention for Diplomatic Relations, to which Canada is a party, a country can declare any member of another nation’s diplomatic corps persona non grata “at any time and without having to explain its decision.” It is considered “the most damning form of censure a country can bestow on foreign diplomats.”

Expelling a diplomat is thus a big deal. And it’s a bigger deal when they hail from a country with the clout and arrogance of China. Which likely explains why it took the Canadian government five days to decide to expel Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei. Zhao was accused by CSIS of plotting to intimidate Conservative MP Michael Chong, an outspoken critic of human rights abuses in China, by threatening Chong’s family members in Hong Kong.

The news came to light last week and caused a furor, in part due to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s initial refusal to say when he had learned of the threats. Trudeau subsequently tossed CSIS under the bus, claiming that they had not elevated the information up to his office and that he had only learned of it “through media reports.” Then Canadians learned that CSIS had in fact informed Trudeau’s national security officer, who works in the Privy Council Office, which reports to the Prime Minister’s Office, back in 2021.

Oops. Forty-eight hours and a lot of outrage later, the government sent Zhao packing. It didn’t take China that long to retaliate: the next day, it announced the expulsion of Canadian diplomat Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, a consul of the Consulate General of Canada in Shanghai. In the hours leading up to her expulsion, the Chinese government had threatened to “resolutely and forcefully respond” if Ottawa “keeps acting recklessly,” and accused Canadian media and politicians of “fabricating false information.”

Read the full column on the National Post website

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