Bob Dechert, the MP for Mississauga-Erindale, ought to fully clarify his dealings and conversations with Shi Rong, a reporter in Toronto for the Xinhua news agency, which is owned by the Chinese state, even if he was merely flirting, as he says. If he does not, he will invite suspicions that he fits a pattern described last year by Richard Fadden, the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency, of some Canadian political “figures who have developed quite an attachment to foreign countries” – among which Mr. Fadden clearly intimated that he included China. His words were expressed indiscreetly, but they were not retracted.
Although Mr. Fadden referred to provincial and municipal politics, federal politics are not immune.
Mr. Dechert is one of the two parliamentary secretaries of John Baird, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and a member of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee. Presumably, he has access to some confidential information. Though it has been mentioned that he also belongs to a five-MP panel that will have a role in considering potential justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Chinese Communist Party is hardly likely to be looking for an agent of influence at 301 Wellington St., Ottawa, to manipulate Charter litigation.
Xinhua is not simply a front; it churns out news stories that in many respects resemble those of ordinary wire services. On the other hand, it is not neutral. Some of Xinhua’s foreign correspondents also write “internal reference reports” for party and government officials.
Chinese intelligence agents are said to gradually cultivate contacts with mid-level officials, first eliciting routine information, but eventually extorting genuine secrets. If such a process was in the works in this instance, Ms. Shi’s jealous husband may have done Mr. Dechert and Canada a favour by distributing his foolish e-mails, before it went too far. In any case, Mr. Dechert must be completely frank with the Canadian authorities about a friendship that was, to borrow Mr. Fadden’s phrase, “quite an attachment.”