Han Dong, the member of Parliament at the centre of allegations of Chinese meddling in Canadian affairs, has resigned from the Liberal caucus and will sit as an Independent.
"I'm taking this extraordinary step because to sitting in the government caucus is a privilege," Dong told the House of Commons Wednesday night.
"And my presence there may be seen by some as a conflict of duty and the wrong place to be as an independent investigation pursues the facts in this matter."
Global News, citing unnamed security sources, published a report Wednesday night alleging that Dong advised a Chinese diplomat in Toronto in February 2021 on the cases of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.
At the time, the two Canadian men had been detained in China for just over two years in apparent retaliation for the December 2018 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition warrant.
Global News reported that Dong told the Chinese consul general that releasing the men would benefit the Opposition Conservatives, but also that showing some "progress" in the case would help the Liberals.
The Canadian Press has not independently verified the allegations.
Dong, the MP for Don Valley North since 2019, told Global News that he did meet with China's consul general but disputed how the conversation about the men known as the "two Michaels" was characterized.
"Let me be clear: what has been reported is false and I will defend myself against these absolutely untrue claims," Dong told the House of Commons.
Toronto MP @handongontario quits Liberal caucus amid Chinese interference allegations. #CDNPoli #ForeignInterference #ChineseInterference #TwoMichaels
"Let me assure you as a parliamentarian and as a person, I have never and I would never advocate or support the violation of the basic human rights of any Canadian of anyone anywhere," he said
In his speech, which ended in tears, Dong also addressed Kovrig, Spavor and their families.
"I did nothing to cause them any harm," he said.
"Like everyone in this House, I worked hard and advocated for their interest as a parliamentarian," he said.
The Prime Minister's Office was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday night.
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Global News that the PMO was not aware of the February 2021 conversation until Dong informed the office about it after receiving questions from the media.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2023