Since the 2021 general election, more than a quarter of Chinese diplomats assigned to a Toronto Consulate have left the country, fueling demands for a public inquiry into election interference by China. The Department of Foreign Affairs released updated figures on accredited staff in a report titled “Diplomatic, Consular And Other Representatives In Canada.” The report revealed that despite 38 accredited staff at the Consulate during the last federal election, there are now only 28 Chinese diplomats in Toronto.
The reduction of 26% in Chinese diplomats stationed in Toronto has raised questions, and Foreign Affairs has been unable to provide a clear explanation for the decline. This development comes after the House of Commons voted on May 8 to pass a Conservative motion demanding the expulsion of China diplomats responsible for interfering in Canadian democracy. It was on the same day that Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei was expelled for leading an intimidation campaign against Conservative MP Michael Chong, who had criticized China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims.
The unusually high number of Chinese diplomats (146) assigned to Canada has sparked suspicion among Members of Parliament (MPs). In comparison, Japan has 46 diplomats, India has 35, and the U.K. has 23. Charles Burton, a former Canadian envoy to China, testified at the House Affairs Committee, stating that the number of Chinese diplomats assigned to Canada “does make me wonder.”
Even with the reduced number of diplomats, the 28 accredited Chinese envoys still outnumber the staff at other consulates in Toronto, such as the U.S. Consulate with 20 staff, India with 12, and the U.K. with two. Following the expulsion of Zhao Wei, the Canadian government refused to accredit another Beijing envoy who was confirmed to be a Chinese spy. Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly testified at the House Affairs Committee on March 9, revealing that a visa was denied to a political operative from China. Joly emphasized the government’s commitment to taking prompt action when presented with clear evidence of wrongdoing.
Conservative MP Luc Berthold has raised concerns about a potential cover-up, stating that the facts speak for themselves. He highlighted the importance of actions rather than mere promises in dealing with China and protecting Canadian democracy.
The departure of Chinese diplomats from the Toronto Consulate and the demands for a public inquiry into election interference by China have intensified scrutiny on the matter. The Canadian government’s decision to expel diplomats and deny visas to suspected Chinese spies reflects its commitment to safeguarding national security and defending against foreign interference. As the discussions and investigations continue, it remains to be seen how these developments will impact Canada-China relations and the future of diplomatic engagements between the two countries.