As a fresh report said that he communicated with Chinese diplomats in 2021 to advise them to continue holding two Canadians captive to help the Liberal party, MP Han Dong resigned from the Liberal caucus and will now sit as an Independent.
Dong, who represents the Don Valley North riding in Toronto, announced his resignation in an emotional speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening. He stated that he told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party caucus leadership that he would be sitting as an Independent, notwithstanding his vehement denial of the claims.
“I’m taking this extraordinary step because to sit in the government caucus is a privilege and my presence there may be seen by some as a conflict of duty and the wrong place to be as an independent investigation pursues the facts in this matter,” Dong said.
A report has recently surfaced alleging Dong privately advising a senior Chinese diplomat in February 2021 that Beijing should hold off freeing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, saying the release of these detained Canadians would benefit the opposing Conservatives.
The two Canadians had been in Chinese detention for over two years at the time. Canadians were furious at the time that Spavor and Kovrig were being held captive in secret Chinese jails without adequate legal process and were being denied fundamental rights like consular access.
Nonetheless, it was widely assumed that they were imprisoned in retaliation for Canada’s detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was sought for extradition to the United States.
During 2021, then-Conservative leader Erin O’Toole unsuccessfully pressed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a tougher posture with Beijing, suggesting that Ottawa use the threat of penalties to obtain Kovrig and Spavor’s release.
According to the two separate national security sources that led to the report, Dong also suggested that Beijing make some progress in the Kovrig and Spavor cases. A move like this would benefit the ruling Liberal Party, which was under fire for China’s cruel treatment of Kovrig and Spavor.
In an emailed response to Global News on Tuesday, Dong stated that he had a conversation with Consul General Han, but denied initiating it. He also denied advising Beijing to postpone the release of Kovrig and Spavor.
“I raised the status of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and called for their immediate release,” he wrote. “At every opportunity before they returned home, I adamantly demanded their release to Canada without delay. Any suggestions otherwise are false and are attempts to mislead you and your readers, and slander me.”
The two men were eventually released in September 2021, only days after the Liberal party won a minority government in the federal election.
Dong added that he’ll be an Independent “so the business of government and indeed the business of Parliament is not interrupted,” as he clears his name and the “truth” is presented to Parliament and to Canadian people.
PMO spokesperson Alison Murphy wrote that her office “only became aware that a conversation took place after Mr. Dong told us, following recent media questions,” adding that Dong never served as the government’s back channel.
The Liberal MP has been accused of receiving Chinese assistance in securing his Toronto seat. He has refuted this and has defended his record of skipping votes condemning China’s human rights violations against the Uyghur minority.
“I’ve never been offered nor would I accept help from a foreign country or representative from a foreign country,” he said. “I’m a Canadian nominated by Liberals, registered Liberals in Don Valley North and elected by Canadians to serve Canadians. I’m just going to focus on my work.”
Dong stated that he has never received a call regarding any of his campaigns from CSIS, the RCMP, or Elections Canada, and that all of his expenses and donations have been publicly disclosed.
The whole Chinese interference on federal election scandal however is mounting contention from across the aisle, and even from other political parties. This mainly stems after weeks of filibustering by the Liberals to keep Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, from appearing before the House procedure committee and testifying about briefings the prime minister received regarding the interference.
On Monday, the Conservatives introduced a motion in the House of Commons demanding Telford to appear before the House ethics committee before the middle of April.
The motion is said to be put to a real test of the supply-and-confidence agreement reached by the New Democratic Party and Liberals a year ago. In exchange for the government acting on major NDP goals, the NDP is supporting the Liberal-led government on budgets and other votes that are automatically seen as confidence votes.
Last month, the RCMP informed a House committee that it had opened no investigations into foreign influence in the 2019 or 2021 elections. Independent panels overseeing each of those votes found no evidence of attempted meddling that jeopardized the integrity of the elections.
Information for this briefing was found via Global News, National Post, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.