Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Memo to Bob Dechert

In light of Harper’s decision to deepen the relationship with China, perhaps it’s time for Canadian officials to get an updated security briefing on the risks that will accompany that engagement

The controversy over Ontario MP Bob Dechert’s “amorous” e-mails to the Xinhua News Agency chief correspondent in Toronto has more to it than the simple infatuation of a mid-aged politician for a beautiful young Asian woman. Above all, it serves as a reminder to the Harper government that, despite warming relations with Beijing, China was and remains an intelligence threat.

Whether the 53-year-old Dechert had sexual intercourse with the thirtysomething Shi Rong or stuck, as he claims, to a “flirtatious” friendship is of little import. As an MP and, more significantly, a parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, his lapse in judgment has highlighted beyond doubt a vulnerability that raises serious questions as to his suitability to serve in those positions.

It is common knowledge — and Dechert should have known — that journalists at the Chinese Communist Party-run Xinhua News Agency often double as spies for the Chinese intelligence apparatus.


As the Conservative government intensifies its courtship of Beijing, with a China visit for Harper reportedly in the preparatory stages, Ottawa should pay close attention to the lessons learned by countries with a long history of being targeted by Chinese espionage. One of those countries is Taiwan, over which China claims sovereignty and would be willing to go to war.

My op-ed, published today in the Ottawa Citizen, continues here.

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