Han Dong, a member of the Canadian Parliament from Toronto, has resigned his membership in the ruling Liberal Party amid accusations that he helped aid Chinese interference in Canadian elections and internal affairs, the Daily Caller reported.
Dong has vehemently denied any wrongdoing or questions of his loyalty and will not step down from parliament, but instead will register himself as an independent member.
The BBC reported that Dong, in addition to broad accusations of aiding Chinese interference in Canadian political affairs, was specifically accused recently of lobbying a Chinese diplomat to delay the release of two Canadian citizens who were unjustly imprisoned in China on baseless espionage charges.
Those two individuals, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, had been detained in China in 2018 and charged with spying in what was widely viewed as a retaliatory move against Canada's arrest and home detention of top Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou while the U.S. sought her extradition to America to face criminal fraud charges.
In a speech to the House of Commons Wednesday night, Dong said, "To all my colleagues in the parliament, media reports today quoting unverified and anonymous sources have attacked my reputation and called into question my loyalty to Canada."
"Let me be clear, what has been reported is false. And I will defend myself against these absolutely untrue claims," he added.
The media report Dong referenced came from Canada's Global News, which cited two anonymous national security sources as claiming that Dong had contacted Han Tao, the Chinese consul general in Toronto, in February 2021 to advise him to urge Beijing to hold off on any plans to imminently release Kovrig and Spavor.
The reason for the advised delay, per the sources, was that an immediate release of the two imprisoned Canadians would be politically beneficial to Canada's Conservative Party. On the other hand, a display of "progress" in their cases and acknowledgment of criticism over their mistreatment would politically benefit Dong's Liberal Party ahead of that year's elections.
Dong, of course, denied that allegation and insisted that while he did have a conversation with Tao about the "two Michaels," as they came to be known, he claimed that he had always "adamantly demanded their release to Canada without delay."
Meanwhile, the outlet further reported that its unnamed sources alleged that beyond that particular discussion with the Chinese consul general about the two detained Canadians, Dong was also under scrutiny for his alleged involvement in support of a secretive years-long Chinese election interference operation in Canada and for working to advance Chinese interests in that nation.
As for Korvig and Spavor, Canada's CBC reported in Sept. 2021 that they were released from prison and returned to Canada just hours before Huawei executive Meng was released from home confinement in Vancouver and allowed to return to China.
That swap was reportedly the result of a decision by the Biden administration to drop the extradition case launched by the Trump administration and instead enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with Meng over the fraud charges she faced.
The BBC reported that the Chinese consulate in Toronto said the election interference claims were "utterly groundless" and that, in regard to the conversations between Dong and Tao, "It is the responsibility of consular posts to have extensive contacts and carry out friendly exchanges with local governments and all circles of society."
It was also noted that a spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry declined to address the allegations about Dong but said more broadly of the interference claims, "China opposes interference in other countries' internal affairs. We have no interest in and will not interfere in Canada's internal affairs."