Han Dong takes Global News to court over 'unverified' claims

The Han Dong saga continues after the disgruntled MP threatened legal action against Global News and its parent company after it was alleged the Toronto MP spoke to a Chinese diplomat about delaying the release of two Canadians.

Han Dong takes Global News to court over 'unverified' claims
Facebook/ Han Dong
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"Yes, I am taking legal action against Global News and Corus Entertainment," Dong said in a statement on Monday. "I have retained a lawyer to begin legal action to its fullest extent."

The statement follows a Global News report last week citing national security sources that alleged Dong privately advised a senior Chinese diplomat not to free Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in February 2021. 

Both sources said Dong suggested to Han Tao, China's consul general in Toronto, that releasing the two Michaels would benefit the Conservatives in the polls.

Despite China accusing the two Canadian citizens of espionage then, their jailing was widely considered retribution for Canada's detention of Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei executive facing extradition to the U.S.

Global News also alleged that Dong had asked Beijing for progress in the Kovrig and Spavor cases to help the ruling Liberal Party amid public pushback then.

Dong resigned from the Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent MP and contest the allegations against him after the scathing report became public on March 22.

Global News previously named Dong a "witting affiliate in China's election interference networks" on February 24. They said CSIS surveilled Dong as early as June 2019, months before his election to Parliament, and named him in an intelligence memo distributed to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Intelligence services urged the PMO to rescind Dong's nomination over alleged foreign interference, which he vehemently denies. 

"I strongly reject the insinuations in media reporting that allege I have played a role in offshore interference in these processes and will defend myself vigorously against such inaccurate and irresponsible claims that come from an unverified and anonymous source," wrote Dong in a previous statement.

There was "no indication of any irregularities or compliance issues regarding my candidacy or election," he claimed.

The Canadian Press has yet to independently verify the allegations against Dong.

Global News Editor-in-Chief Sonia Verma defended the outlet's reporting on Monday, stating: "Global News is governed by a rigorous set of journalistic principles and practices, and we are very mindful of the public interest and legal responsibility of this important accountability reporting."

Dong did not immediately respond to questions about his lawyer's identity or whether he had filed a statement of claim in court to formally launch legal proceedings.

On Monday, Dong pushed back against allegations of having worked with Beijing by relating his father's experience under the Chinese Communist regime, including being sent to a "re-education camp" in 1970.

"The trauma left on my father is one of the compelling reasons why, as co-chair of the Canada-China Legislative Association and a member of Parliament, I took every available opportunity to advocate on behalf of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and to call for their immediate release," he said.

"It is inconceivable that I would ever suggest a falsely accused individual should spend an extra minute in jail."

Dong supported a public inquiry into foreign interference in Canada and would willingly meet with former governor general David Johnston, who Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tapped as a special rapporteur to investigate such allegations.

"I can look at myself in the mirror and know, with full certainty, that I have the truth on my side," he said. "My anonymous false accusers and their enablers cannot say the same."

Before running for an elected office, the Independent MP served as marketing director of the Canada-Shanghai Business Association and a longtime Liberal aide at the Ontario legislature. He was also a Toronto assembly member before winning a contested federal nomination in Don Valley North in 2019.

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