OTTAWA — Beijing is retaliating in a tit-for-tat diplomatic row by expelling a Canadian envoy, following Canada’s decision to eject a Chinese diplomat Monday amid allegations of a plot to coerce a Canadian lawmaker.

A statement posted by China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in English said it strongly condemns Canada’s move and is responding with a “reciprocal” one by declaring Jennifer Lalonde, a diplomat from Canada’s consulate in Shanghai, persona non grata. She has been asked to leave China by Saturday, it said.

“China reserves the right to further react.”

Tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions are normal in international diplomacy, but relations have been rocky between the two countries for years and China has targeted Canadian trade in the past. Canola exports, for instance, were banned for years in the wake of Canadian authorities detaining Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018.

This latest move comes after Canada declared diplomat Zhao Wei persona non grata on Monday over his alleged involvement in an attempt to pressure Conservative MP Michael Chong through his extended family living in Hong Kong.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said in a statement Monday Canada has “zero tolerance” for “any form of foreign interference,” and that Canada has warned diplomats in the country that they could be sent packing over such actions.

It followed a story in The Globe and Mail newspaper that described a Canadian intelligence report warning China is targeting Canada to interfere in domestic politics. An anonymous source quoted in the article accused Zhao of working on the influence campaign against Chong, who had sponsored a motion in 2021 decrying China’s abuses of the Uyghur Muslim minority population as a genocide. Following those revelations, the head of Canadian intelligence then informed Chong in person last week that he and his family were being targeted.

Chong and others have accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of taking too long to expel Zhao. But Trudeau maintained he had to weigh the possible repercussions.

Chong’s case is just the latest to rock political circles. Foreign interference has been a wider controversy simmering in Canada for a long time — until March, when it exploded into one scandalous revelation after another, putting the Liberals on the defensive ever since.

Leaked reports from Canadian intelligence have singled out Chinese meddling in Canadian affairs as the greatest threat to national security, and warned that Beijing has tried to influence outcomes of local races in elections in 2019 and 2021. What’s more, China allegedly tried to bolster support for Liberal candidates and defeat Conservatives.

Canadian lawmaker Han Dong resigned from the governing Liberal Party that month and now sits as an independent, following allegations in a Global News report alleging he advised a Chinese diplomat to hold off on releasing two high-profile Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were held captive by China at the time. He is suing the news outlet for defamation for publishing the allegations, which he denies.

The House of Commons has also called on the government to call a public inquiry into foreign interference in Canada’s elections, heaping more pressure onto the beleaguered Liberals over the matter.

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