Toronto MP Han Dong says he is taking legal action over a media report that alleged he spoke to a Chinese diplomat in February 2021 about delaying the release of two Canadians detained in China at the time.
Global News reported this month that Dong told the Chinese consul general to Toronto that keeping Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in prison would be politically damaging to the opposition Conservatives – an allegation Dong vehemently denies.
The network attributed the information to two unnamed national security officials. CTV News has not verified the allegation.
“I took every available opportunity to advocate on behalf of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and to call for their immediate release,” Dong said in a statement he posted on his Twitter account Monday.
In the statement, the MP for Don Valley North says his father was imprisoned and sent to a re-education in China in 1970, during the Cultural Revolution — Mao Zedong’s brutal crackdown on dissent.
“It is inconceivable that I would ever suggest a falsely-accused individual should spend an extra minute in jail,” he said.
A separate report in The Globe and Mail said the Prime Minister’s Office has examined a transcript of Dong’s call with the diplomat and found it contained no “actionable evidence.”
Dong says he has retained a lawyer to launch legal action against Global News and its parent company, Corus Entertainment.
Under Ontario’s defamation law, the first step in a claim would require Dong to send a notice to the media outlet before filing a lawsuit seeking damages. Dong has not filed a statement of claim in court yet.
“Global News is governed by a rigorous set of Journalistic Principles and Practices,” Sonia Verma, Editor in Chief of Global News, said in a statement Monday. “We are very mindful of the public interest and legal responsibility of this important accountability reporting.”
After the Global report, Dong announced he was leaving the Liberal caucus to sit as an independent MP while he fights to clear his name.
Last week, he voted with the opposition and against the Liberals on a motion calling for a full public inquiry into alleged foreign interference in Canadian elections. In his statement, he said he did this to show that he had “nothing to hide.”
He said he supports the prime minister’s decision to appoint former governor general David Johnston as a special rapporteur on election interference and offered to meet with him and provide any information he needs.
Dong, born in Shanghai, says his family left China two months after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy protesters.
“Despite the abuse and shame my family has suffered over the last few weeks, I truly believe that my parents made the right decision to come to Canada,” he said.
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