Chong incensed he was not informed of alleged targeting of his family abroad

OTTAWA – Despite sanctions and political posturing from Russia and China in recent years, Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong has remained resolute that he will not be deterred.

The latest incident, reportedly involving Chong and foreign influence by the People’s Republic of China, won’t change that, Chong asserted in a Tuesday morning phone call with the Advertiser.

His comments follow reporting by the Globe and Mail on May 1, citing nine pages of a 2021 top-secret report from the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) Intelligence Assessment Branch, as well as an unnamed national security source.

The reporting, which the Advertiser cannot vet, claims China has targeted Canadian lawmakers connected to a parliamentary sub-committee that in 2021 accused China of committing genocide against Muslim groups in the country’s Xinjiang region.

Chong isn’t named in the top-secret documents, according to the Globe, and the newspaper’s reporting is scant on details – but the MP was named by the newspaper’s anonymous source.

Citing that source, the Globe reported a Chinese Ministry of State Security officer wanted information on Chong’s relatives abroad to impose sanctions on them, and Wei Zhao, a People’s Republic of China diplomat working out of Toronto, was working on the file.

After being contacted by a reporter last weekend, Chong released a scathing 10-paragraph statement on Monday.

In his May 1 statement posted to social media channels, Chong called the reported activity “a serious, national threat,” and wrote that the federal government has demonstrated “a complete lack of leadership and common decency.”

Recent media reporting, Chong wrote, should be a “wake-up call” for the government.

Speaking with the Advertiser on May 2, Chong said he was “surprised” by the information, adding it was the first time he had heard about what happened.

Chong trusts the Globe’s reporting, noting the paper has “two independent sources for this information,” and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hasn’t denied it.

The MP is now criticizing the lack of information shared with him by CSIS, which has briefed Chong on general matters in the past.

The intelligence agency, Chong said, wasn’t authorized by the prime minister to share detailed information, and CSIS has never briefed him about a “specific threat to me or my family.”

Chong is also calling for the expulsion of Zhao. As of May 2, a list of foreign representatives in Canada updated daily by Global Affairs Canada, names Zhao as a consular officer working at Beijing’s consulate in Toronto.

The consulate did not respond to the Advertiser’s request for comment.

Chong’s concerns were echoed at Parliament Hill on May 1 as Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre questioned in the House of Commons why the federal government hadn’t expelled the diplomat, and “did exactly nothing” years ago in response to the CSIS information.

The prime minister did not directly answer any of Poilievre’s questions.

“We followed up immediately with top officials to get all the information on this file, on what happened, on who was informed, on who was not informed, to make sure that we are following up in an appropriate way,” Trudeau said.

Chong told the Advertiser “it would be shocking if the intelligence agencies didn’t bring this to the attention of the highest people in government.” He said at minimum, then Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, along with then Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair and the prime minister, should have been informed.

In the House, Trudeau decried the actions, calling them “absolutely unacceptable.”

Chong could be seen sitting near Poilievre, but he did not react by shouting, standing, or clapping as fellow caucus members did following questions from the Conservative leader.

“What was going through my mind, is what’s going through the minds of thousands of Canadians who have been subject to these coercion and intimidation tactics [from] the People’s Republic of China,” Chong said.

“Why is the government of Canada refusing to do anything to counter this?”

Chong says he’s one of the higher-profile Canadians swept up in China’s influence in the country, but suggests there are “thousands of Canadians, maybe even tens-of-thousands” subjected to China’s tactics the wider public never hears about.

“It is a serious national threat to the security of Canada; it is why this CSIS whistleblower is raising the alarm bell by releasing this information,” he said.

Since the story came out, Chong has intentionally avoided contact with relatives in Hong Kong, “out of an abundance of caution in order to protect them.”

He declined to discuss any details about his family, or how his role as a parliamentarian has effected his familial relationships abroad.

He demurred, saying, “The responsibility that elected MPs have to their constituents, their responsibility to the country is first and foremost.

“I remain resolute in my commitment that we have to protect Canada and Canadians from these foreign interference threats. This incident is not going to distract me from that.”

In an email to the Advertiser, the Prime Minister’s Office had nothing else to say beyond Trudeau’s comments in the House on May 1.

The prime minister told the Commons on Monday that the feds are “looking to” establish a “foreign agent registry.”

And in March, the appointment of “special rapporteur” David Johnston was announced to investigate foreign interference in Canada.