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Conservative MP for Wellington-Halton Hills Michael Chong prepares to appear as a witness at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in Ottawa on May 16.Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong, an outspoken critic of China, was almost certainly the target of a second intimidation campaign orchestrated by Beijing in May, the federal government says.

Mr. Chong has been on the radar of China since at least 2021 because of his condemnation of Beijing’s brutal treatment of ethnic Muslim Uyghurs and crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

The MP, who received a briefing from Global Affairs Canada on Wednesday, told The Globe and Mail he has no doubt that the People’s Republic of China orchestrated the campaign.

“The evidence is convincing that this is tied directly to the PRC,” he said. “This is a concerted, ongoing effort by the PRC to interfere in Canadian democracy and it is why the government needs to take this threat much more seriously than they have been.”

The federal government is in the midst of all-party negotiations to set up a public inquiry into Chinese state interference in Canadian politics after revelations reported in The Globe on May 1 that Beijing targeted Mr. Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong in the lead-up to the 2021 election. Mr. Chong was not briefed on the attempted intimidation until after The Globe’s report.

The disclosure of this meddling prompted Ottawa to expel Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei in May, at the same time Mr. Chong was once again the target of a disinformation operation on the Chinese social-media app WeChat.

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) said Wednesday that the department’s Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) detected a disinformation operation on WeChat that was directed against Mr. Chong while monitoring digital traffic for the June 19 by-elections.

According to the analysis, between May 4 and 13 a co-ordinated network of WeChat’s news accounts featured, shared and amplified a large volume of “false or misleading narratives” about Mr. Chong.

“Most of the activity was targeted at spreading false narratives about his identity, including commentary and claims about his background, political stances and family’s heritage. It is the assessment of GAC that nothing observed represents a threat to the safety of Mr. Chong or his family,” the department said in a statement.

Global Affairs said it worked with other departments through late June and July to review and assess the information, although it cannot be absolutely certain China was behind the campaign against Mr. Chong.

“An analysis by the RRM to determine the possibility of state involvement revealed that, while China’s role in the information operation is highly probable, unequivocal proof that China ordered and directed the operation is not possible to determine due to the covert nature of how social media networks are leveraged in this type of information campaign,” the department said.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa called the allegations “purely groundless.”

“We never interfere in Canada’s internal affairs, and have no interests whatsoever in doing so,” said Jianwei Li, deputy director of the embassy’s culture and press section.

Mr. Chong said he was told in Wednesday’s briefing that about one-third of the WeChat accounts were directly or indirectly tied to Chinese state or state-affiliated accounts.

The MP said he welcomes the fact the government gave him a briefing and publicly revealed the disinformation campaign against him. But he urged Ottawa to create a long-promised foreign-influence registry, immediately set up a public inquiry into Chinese election meddling, and provide legal and financial tools to Canada’s spy service and the RCMP to tackle foreign interference.

“Those are all things they have yet to act on that are urgent, and this most recent incident about foreign disinformation about me last May is proof that this problem is a clear and present threat to our democracy, and it is inexplicable why the government hasn’t moved more quickly to implement the necessary changes to combat this ongoing threat,” he said.

Talks on launching an official independent inquiry into foreign interference by China are dragging into the dead of summer. It’s been two months since the government opened the door to a public inquiry in the aftermath of former governor-general David Johnston’s abrupt resignation as special rapporteur on Chinese state interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections.

One of the delays in establishing an inquiry is finding a judge who would be willing to head it and has the approval of the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc Québécois and New Democrats, according to two federal sources. The Globe is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to discuss internal negotiations among the parties.

The New Democrats have also pushed to expand the inquiry to include election interference by Russia, India and Iran.

In early May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to start briefing MPs about any intelligence on threats to them or their families. His directive was issued after national-security leaks to The Globe about the effort to intimidate Mr. Chong and his family in Hong Kong.

CSIS later informed former Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole and NDP MP Jenny Kwan that they too had been targeted by Beijing.

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