A former Canadian diplomat who was ordered out of Saudi Arabia amid a disagreement between the two countries says a consul set to be expelled from China should prepare for challenging days ahead.
In 2018, Dennis Horak was expelled from Saudi Arabia as Canada’s ambassador as part of Riyadh’s response to a tweet from the Canadian government condemning the jailing of two human rights activists.
This week, Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, the Canadian consul in Shanghai was ordered out of China. That came after Canada expelled Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei following allegations he was involved in a plot to intimidate Conservative MP Michael Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong.
Horak said Lalonde, and Zhao, can expect a rocky few days.
“It’s a bit disconcerting,” he said in a phone interview.
“It’s going to be disruptive for their personal lives.”
Horak happened to be on leave in Canada when he received word that he was being expelled from Saudi Arabia.
The circumstances meant he and his wife were unable to return to pack up their home or say goodbye to friends and colleagues in the kingdom.
“It was certainly not the way I wanted to go out,” said Horak, who had been hoping to retire from the three-year posting in Saudi Arabia.
“On a personal level, it was very disruptive.”
It also meant that Horak had to direct Canadian embassy staff over webcam as they packed up his belongings.
“It was weird having our staff go around with a computer and open up your sock drawer,” he recalled. “It’s very 21st century, I guess.”
Beijing declared Lalonde as “persona non grata” on Tuesday in retaliation for Ottawa’s expulsion of Zhao.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly described Lalonde in French as “a very respected career diplomat.” Lalonde has been asked to leave China before Saturday.
A diplomatic expulsion sends a signal that a relationship between two countries “has a problem,” Horak said.
“In the case of China, it confirms we have a problem,” he said.
Lalonde can expect to face challenges returning to China in the future if she wanted to do so, Horak said. He noted, however, that expelled Canadian diplomats can typically continue their careers in some way.
“It’s nothing that they did,” he said. “It’s just a reflection of what’s happened to the relationship.”
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.