Canada said it has detected a misinformation campaign targeting a member of its parliament on the Chinese instant-messaging app WeChat.
Conservative politician Michael Chong was allegedly the target of posts sharing “misleading narratives” about his background, his family’s heritage and his political views.
Global Affairs Canada (GAC) said it is “highly probable” that China was behind the WeChat campaign against him.
China has denied the accusations.
Canadian officials are seldom forthcoming about information related to foreign interference and the allegations were revealed in a rare statement by GAC on Wednesday.
The department cautioned it is difficult to definitively trace the attacks back to China because of the nature of the campaign.
“Unequivocal proof that China ordered and directed the operation is not possible to determine due to the covert nature of how social media networks are leveraged in this type of information campaign,” it said.
This latest is part of a wider series of claims that have come out in recent months from Canadian intelligence agencies and officials that Beijing has been interfering in Canada’s elections.
GAC said it uncovered the attacks against Mr Chong while monitoring social media and other parts of the internet for foreign interference ahead of a 19 June by-election.
They were coming from news accounts on WeChat that amplified falsehoods about Mr Chong.
They said the attacks appeared coordinated and were abnormal in volume.
One-third of the accounts amplifying the attacks were known state-media outlets or accounts likely linked to the Chinese state, GAC said. The rest were anonymous and had not made any previous posts about Canadian politics.
In a statement to the BBC, the Chinese embassy in Canada called the accusations “purely groundless”.
“We never interfere in Canada’s internal affairs, and have no interests whatsoever in doing so,” the statement said.
GAC said it will be speaking to China’s representatives in Canada about the posts, adding that “Canada will never accept any form of interference in our democracy or internal affairs”.
Canada has accused China in the past of targeting both Mr Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong after he spoke about concerns of human rights abuses in China.
This led Canada to expel Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei in May. China retaliated and ordered the removal of Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, Canada’s diplomat in its Shanghai Consulate.
In a media statement shared on Wednesday, Mr Chong called the campaign against him “another serious example of the communist government in Beijing attempting to interfere in our democracy by targeting elected officials”.
He also renewed his call for a public inquiry into the allegations of foreign interference by China in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has faced pressure to launch an inquiry into the issue, but it is unclear yet if one will take place.