China Threatens Canada After Trudeau Suspends Hong Kong Agreements: 'Just Wait and See'

The Chinese ambassador to Canada has issued an ominous warning to citizens after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suspended his nation's extradition treaty with Hong Kong and froze military exports to China over the controversial national security law imposed on Hong Kong this month.

In an interview published by The Toronto Star Tuesday, ambassador Cong Peiwu said Trudeau's Liberal government should stop "interfering in China's internal affairs" by acting on Hong Kong.

Chinese officials in Beijing and its representatives worldwide have responded aggressively to international condemnation of the national security law, which effectively criminalizes anti-government dissent in the territory and marks the end of the "One country, two systems" agreement that had protected the former British colony's relative political freedoms.

The Canadian government said Friday it would suspend its extradition agreement with Hong Kong and end the export of military or "dual use" products that could be used by police to suppress pro-democracy demonstrations in the city. Such protests are now illegal under the new law.

The Chinese foreign ministry said Monday that Beijing "reserved the right to further react" to the Canadian decision, for which Canada would "bear the consequences."

Asked what this meant, Cong told The Star: "I'd like to suggest you just wait and see."

"As I have told you, we are resolute in safeguarding our national security and sovereignty," he added. "We will not just sit idly by."

On Monday, China warned its citizens against travelling to Canada citing "frequent violent actions" by local law enforcement but without providing examples. The warning was published on the WeChat messaging app by the Chinese embassy in Canada, CBC reported.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson also said Monday that Canada had "seriously violated international law and basic norms governing international relations, and grossly interfered in China's internal affairs."

He urged Ottawa to "immediately correct its mistakes and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's other internal affairs in any way so as to avoid further damage to China-Canada relations."

Chinese representatives have hit out at a host of foreign governments—including Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and the U.S.—for their condemnation of the national security law and their legislative responses. Beijing has argued this constitutes foreign meddling in its political affairs.

The national security law criminalizes foreign collusion, which could include soliciting help and diplomatic support from foreign nations. Those convicted of the most serious offenses can be jailed for life. Beijing has long sought to frame the pro-democracy demonstrations as extremist-instigated and foreign-directed.

Relations between Canada and China were already frosty over the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December 2018, at the request of the U.S. Canada is planning to extradite Meng to the U.S. where she is expected to face fraud charges.

Soon after and seemingly in response to Meng's arrest, China detained two Canadian citizens—Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor—and charged them with espionage. Last week, Canada's Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne described China's actions as "coercive diplomacy" and "arbitrary detention."

Asked to comment on Cong's remarks, a spokesperson in Champagne's office directed Newsweek to the minister's statement marking the passage of the national security law earlier this month.

Champagne expressed Canada's "serious concern" over the legislation, which he said "demonstrated disregard for Hong Kong's Basic Law and the high degree of autonomy promised for Hong Kong under the 'one country, two systems' framework."

Newsweek has contacted the Chinese embassy in Canada to request clarification on Cong's apparent threat.

This article has been updated to include previous comments made by Francois-Philippe Champagne.

China, Canada, Hong Kong, national security law
This file photo shows Canadian and Chinese flags before a meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on December 5, 2017, in Beijing, China. Fred Dufour-Pool/Getty Images/Getty