China is playing "aggressive games" with democracies and Canadian institutions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned on Monday following a report of foreign interference in its elections.
His comments came after local broadcaster Global News reported that Beijing had funded a "clandestine network" of candidates in a recent ballot, and days after authorities began investigating illegal Chinese police stations in the Toronto area.
"We have taken significant measures to strengthen the integrity of our elections processes and our systems, and will continue to invest in the fight against election interference, against foreign interference of our democracies and institutions," Trudeau told reporters.
"Unfortunately, we're seeing countries, state actors from around the world, whether it's China or others, are continuing to play aggressive games with our institutions, with our democracies," he said.
Citing unnamed sources, Global News said intelligence officials told the Trudeau government China was seeking to influence or subvert its democratic process.
The report alleges Beijing directed transfers of funds through an Ontario lawmaker and others to at least 11 federal election candidates and Chinese operatives who worked as their campaign staffers.
It also says Beijing sought to place agents in the offices of members of parliament to influence policy.
Last month, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it was looking into reports of "criminal activity in relation to so-called 'police' stations."
According to Spain-based human rights group Safeguard Defenders, the police posts have been used by Chinese police to carry out operations on foreign soil, and pressure Chinese nationals to return to China to face criminal charges.
China has denied accusations of illegal activity, saying the locations simply offer services -- such as driver's license renewals -- to Chinese nationals abroad.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing on Tuesday that China has "no interest" in Canada's internal affairs.
"State-to-state relations can only be built on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit," he said. "China-Canada relations are no exception. Canada should stop making remarks that hurt China-Canada relations."
© 2022 AFP