Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang has denied allegations that Beijing tried to interfere in Canada’s elections, and urged Ottawa to “take measures” to prevent “rumours” from disrupting bilateral ties.
During a meeting with his Canadian counterpart Melanie Joly on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ gathering in New Delhi on Thursday, Qin also said Ottawa should help steer bilateral ties away from media “hype”, according to state news agency Xinhua.
Qin’s remarks came as domestic pressure mounted on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government over media reports that cited intelligence documents alleging Chinese embassies and consulates in Canada tried to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 general elections.
Qin called the accusations “groundless” and “nonsensical”.
“China has never meddled with other countries’ internal affairs and opposes such attempts by any country,” he was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
Qin said China’s embassy in Canada abided by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and was committed to promoting bilateral exchanges and cooperation.
“The Canadian side should take concrete measures to ensure the normal operation of the Chinese diplomatic missions in Canada and prevent rumours and hype from disturbing bilateral ties,” he added.
Qin, who is representing China at the G20 gathering on his first official visit to India, helped block a joint statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, amid Beijing’s deepening feud with Washington and its Western allies.
China’s ties with Canada have yet to show signs of a reset after a three-year diplomatic crisis over Canada’s 2018 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a US warrant, and Beijing’s subsequent detention of two Canadians. All three were released last year.
Late last year, Joly called out China as “an increasingly disruptive, global power”, although the Trudeau government is generally believed to be more open to resuming business ties with Beijing than the opposition Conservatives.
Canadian broadcaster Global News and the Globe and Mail newspaper have reported that Trudeau was aware of secret intelligence briefings about alleged China’s influence activities, including spreading misinformation, getting certain Beijing-preferred candidates elected to parliament.
Trudeau has acknowledged that there were interference attempts by China, but has insisted the outcomes of the votes were not altered. He has also resisted public and opposition pressure to call a public inquiry into the matter.
The head of Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, also denied on Thursday that there was any major foreign interference in the country’s last two elections.
But a poll released on Wednesday indicated that 65 per cent of Canadians believed Beijing “definitely” or “probably” tried to interfere in the 2021 election that returned Trudeau and his Liberals to power.
Some 53 per cent of more than 1,600 respondents said they felt the Trudeau government’s response to the election interference allegations was “not strong enough”, according to a survey by the Angus Reid Institute, a Canadian polling firm.
The Commissioner of Canada’s electoral watchdog said on Thursday that an investigation would be launched into the allegations.
During a brief meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20’s Bali summit in November, Trudeau raised concerns about China’s alleged interference. But later, in another informal chat captured on video that went viral, Xi complained about Trudeau’s “inappropriate” media leaks over the interference allegations and called the Canadian leader “very naive” in his parting comments.