Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faced growing pressure to take a hard line with Beijing following revelations in recent months that it sought to sway Canada’s 2019 and 2021 elections.
The latest allegations were used by his critics to further accuse him of inertia in the face of foreign meddling.
“There was a real political risk for the Trudeau government in this affair, which is taking a gamble by showing its muscles in this way,” said Genevieve Tellier, a politics professor at the University of Ottawa.
Relations between Beijing and Ottawa have been tense since Canada’s arrest in 2018 of a top Huawei executive and the detention of two Canadian nationals in China in apparent retaliation.
All three have been released, but Beijing has continued to blast Ottawa for aligning with Washington’s China policy while Canadian officials have regularly accused China of interference.
After China’s ambassador was summoned last week over the latest interference allegations, Beijing on Friday slammed what it called “groundless slander and defamation” by Canada.
The Chinese foreign ministry insisted the scandal had been “hyped up by some Canadian politicians and media”.
On Monday, Chong told reporters in Ottawa: “It shouldn’t have taken the targeting of a member of Parliament to make this (expulsion) decision”.
“We have known for years that the PRC is using its accredited diplomats here in Canada to target Canadians and their families,” he said.
He said Canada has become “a playground for foreign interference”, including the harassment of diaspora communities.
Roromme Chantal, a China expert at the School of Advanced Public Studies in Moncton, told AFP that Canada should expect retaliation to take the form of “the expulsion of a Canadian diplomat if not several diplomats”.
Beijing, he said, “could also take economic reprisals, as a way of sending a message to other countries that are talking about interference”.