Liberal MP Han Dong secretly advised Chinese diplomat in 2021 to delay freeing Two Michaels: sources – National
Liberal MP Han Dong, at the center of alleged Chinese influence, privately advised senior Chinese diplomats in February 2021 that Beijing should postpone the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Speiber. did, two separate national security sources said.
Both sources said Dong had suggested to Han Tao, China’s consul general in Toronto, that the opposition Conservative Party would benefit if the Chinese government released “two Michaels” accused of espionage. It says.
At the time, the two Canadians had been detained in China for more than two years. However, they were widely believed to have been imprisoned in retaliation for the Canadian detention of Meng Wanzhou, a Huawei executive facing extradition to the United States.
Dong also reportedly encouraged Beijing to make some progress in the Kovrig-Spaver case, two sources said. Such a move would help the ruling Liberal Party, which has faced furor over China’s inhumane treatment of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Speiber.
Mr. Don, who represents riding in the Toronto area of the Don Valley North, has initiated talks with the consul general, two sources said, saying Mr. Don initially said it was a personal conversation and that it was work-related. He added that he said it was a conversation.
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In an emailed statement sent to Global News on Tuesday, Dong confirmed he had discussions with Consul General Han, but disputed that he initiated it and asked him to delay the release of Kovrig and Speiber from prison. He denied having advised Beijing.
“I have raised the status of Michael Spaber and Michael Kovrig and called for their immediate release,” he wrote.
“At every opportunity before their return, I resolutely demanded their release to Canada without delay. It is an attempt to
The prime minister’s office said it was made aware of the conversation two years ago after being contacted by Global News.
PMO spokesperson Alison Murphy wrote that her office “understood a recent media inquiry that the conversation took place after Mr. Don told us.”
Murphy also suggested that MPs were not acting at the behest of the government.
At the time of the conversation between Dong and the Chinese diplomat, Canadians said Spever and Kovrig were being held in a secret Chinese prison without due process and denied basic rights such as consular access. I was furious about it.
Throughout 2021, then-Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole pressured Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a hawkish stance against the Chinese government and forced Ottawa to use the threat of sanctions to free Kovrig and Speybar. I proposed to secure it, but it ended in failure.
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Beijing has backed Trudeau’s Liberal Party re-election in the 2021 elections, two national security sources told Global News, citing a CSIS report.
At the same time, however, they are criticizing the Chinese government for secretly backing some Conservative candidates into supporting its stance, and by attacking other Tories deemed critical of the CCP. He said he was “hedging”.
Last June, Mr O’Toole said Beijing’s interference was responsible for the loss of up to nine Conservative candidates in the 2021 federal election.
“We lost eight or nine seats to foreign intervention from China,” O’Toole said.
However, government officials claim the interference did not affect the overall integrity of the contest.
Since Global News published several articles in late 2022, there have been a series of revelations about China’s interference in Canadian affairs, but a conversation between Dong and Consul General Han revealed that political interference would affect the agency. It shows that it affects people as well. Two people’s lives are at risk in the incident, he said, one of two national security sources.
CSIS researches and collects information about the activities of foreign nations in Canada from human sources, meeting surveillance, and electronic interception.
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Global News has been accused of sharing information that allegedly subverted Canadian democracy, including covert interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, as China could be prosecuted. Anonymity was granted to sources regarding the investigation.
During a conversation between Dong and Consul General Han in February 2021, the CSIS report classified Dong as “a close friend of the consulate based on his call history,” national security officials said. person said.
Aside from the debate about Two Michaels, Two sources said Dong and Consul General Han spoke at length about China’s reputation issues in Canada and discussed perceptions of accusations of human rights violations against Beijing.
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After the February conversation between the consul general and the MP, sources said CSIS questioned whether Dong was acting outside of proper diplomatic channels.
CSIS also deliberated whether the conversation progressed because it believed it was within its mandate as MP to find a solution, sources said.
Concerns about Don’s communications were reported to CSIS administrators in Ottawa, two sources said.
It remains unclear whether CSIS ever passed them on to the Prime Minister’s Office or anyone in the federal government.
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When asked to comment on information provided by sources regarding the alleged Don communications, CSIS spokesperson Eric Balsam wrote in a statement that the service could neither confirm nor deny the veracity of the information.
“Given the need to protect classified activities, techniques, methods, and sources of information, there are serious limitations on what I can publicly discuss,” he wrote.
A few weeks after Mr. Dong’s conversation with Consul General Han, China announced that it had tried behind closed doors on suspicion of espionage, Spiber and then Kovrig.
Seeing the timing of Dong’s alleged correspondence with the Toronto consulate and the announcement of Chinese court proceedings in mid-March, CSIS investigators believe that Dong’s alleged endorsement of Consul General Han actually had an impact on Beijing. and to see if it showed any progress in the case. official said.
As Global News reported last month, Don was already the subject of a CSIS investigation that began in the summer of 2019, three sources said. The service believed it was secretly backed by a “subtle but effective” election interference network run by the Chinese Consulate in Toronto. Don’s 2019 candidacy.
Three sources said the network targeted at least 11 candidates, one of whom was Don.
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CSIS believed he was a deliberate participant in the alleged plan, two separate national security sources said.
As noted in a February 2020 Privy Council memo reviewed by Global News, the Intervention Network in the Toronto area includes political staff and community leaders “recruited” “under extensive guidance” from the consulate. acted as an intermediary between Chinese officials and politicians. Beijing wanted influence.
The document, which neither names nor identifies Dong, states that the purpose of the operation was “to have the targeted politician’s staff provide advice to the Chinese consulate on China-related issues.”
Mr. Dong strongly denied these allegations, saying he defended himself vigorously and rejected “media allusions that[he]played a role in offshore interference.”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Dong said he was unaware of Beijing’s involvement in his campaign, adding that he had received “hate comments” and “death threats” since the article was published in February. ‘, he added.
At the time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the caucus members, adding that Chinese Canadians should be encouraged to participate in politics.
“I want everyone to fully understand that Han Dong is a good member of our team. Any suggestion that he is not loyal to Canada should not be accepted,” he said last month. rice field.