Canada is claiming that China is the prime suspect in an online disinformation campaign against an opposition Canadian legislator with family in Hong Kong.
The Canadian foreign ministry said the target was Michael Chong, a member of the opposition Conservative party, a frequent critic of China who has drawn Beijing’s ire.
The allegation is likely to further sour poor bilateral ties. Canadian authorities are carrying out several probes into allegations of Chinese interference in Canada’s last two federal elections.
“It has been proved time and again that none of these accusations are based on facts,” the Chinese embassy said in a statement, dismissing the Canadian comments as groundless.
The Canadian foreign ministry said it had detected an information operation on the Chinese social media platform WeChat in May that “featured, shared and amplified a large volume of false or misleading narratives” about Chong.
“While China’s role in the information operation is highly probable, unequivocal proof that China ordered and directed the operation is not possible to determine,” the statement said.
Chong, in an email, lamented what he called “another serious example of the communist government in Beijing attempting to interfere in our democracy,” and demanded Ottawa do more to combat meddling by China.
In May, Canada expelled a Chinese diplomat after an intelligence report accused him of trying to target Chong.
In 2021, Chong sponsored a successful motion that declared China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority amounted to genocide. He was sanctioned by Beijing in the same year.
The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing an intelligence report, said in May that China sought information about Chong and his family in China in a likely effort to “make an example” of him.
China-Canada relations turned icy in late 2018 when Canadian police detained a Chinese telecommunications executive. Shortly after, Beijing arrested two Canadians on spying charges.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara