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China cracks down on Western diplomats, businesses

Canada and the United States complain of Chinese foreign interference

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin during a press conference in Beijing on May 9 Associated Press/Photo by Mark Schiefelbein

China cracks down on Western diplomats, businesses

China expelled a Canadian diplomat on Tuesday in a retaliatory move after Canada ousted a Chinese diplomat a day earlier. The spat intensified frustration in the West over foreign interference by Beijing.

Officials declared Zhao Wei, a diplomat at the Chinese consulate in Toronto, “persona non grata” after he allegedly targeted Canadian Member of Parliament Michael Chong and gathered information on his relatives in Hong Kong. Chong voted in 2021 to condemn Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as genocide.

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly announced Zhao’s expulsion, saying Canada “will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs.”

In a tit-for-tat move, Beijing ordered Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, the top Canadian diplomat in Shanghai, to leave. “China never interferes in other countries’ internal affairs,” a spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy in Canada said in a statement.

According to a leaked report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that mentioned Chong, China targeted dozens of other Canadian lawmakers whose identities have not been released, Canadian news outlet Global News reported.

Beijing is also facing growing criticism for running covert operations abroad. U.S. authorities arrested a Boston resident on Tuesday for acting as a Chinese government agent. Last month, the FBI detained two men for operating a police outpost in New York used to track Chinese dissidents.

In China, authorities are cracking down on international consulting firms as the country ramps up its anti-spy campaign. Chinese national security authorities targeted Capvision—a business consulting company headquartered in Shanghai and New York City—and raided its offices in cities including Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou, and Shenzhen.

On Monday, the Chinese state broadcaster said Western nations have “become increasingly rampant in stealing intelligence and information pertaining to our country’s military industry, economy, and finance.”

Chinese police also probed the Shanghai office of the U.S. consulting firm Bain & Company last month and questioned some employees. In March, authorities shuttered the U.S. investigative firm Mintz Group’s Beijing office and detained five of the company’s local staff.

Beijing amended its counterespionage law last month such that “documents, data, materials, or items related to national security” receive the same protection as state secrets. The law does not specify what constitutes national security.

The revised legislation, which goes into effect on July 1, will widen the scope of activities that could be considered spying, such as cyberattacks against state bodies or critical information infrastructure.

The amended law has raised the stakes for those conducting business in China.

Michael Hart, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said U.S. businesses are “spooked.”

While Beijing “has continuously said it welcomes foreign investment,” Hart told CNN, “a flurry of recent actions taken against U.S. enterprises in China has sent the opposite message.”

These summarize the news that I could never assemble or discover by myself. —Keith

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