The Chinese government says the Bob Dechert affair is a private matter and it's "irresponsible" for the press to imply Beijing had any hand in it.
Mr. Dechert, a Conservative MP with special foreign affairs duties, says amorous e-mails he sent to a journalist with China's state news service are part of an " innocent friendship." These include messages where he said he loved Shi Rong, a Toronto correspondent for Xinhua News Agency.
Canada's top spy last year warned that the Chinese were trying to infiltrate Canadian politics. Western intelligence agencies consider Xinhua a tool of the Chinese state that collects information for Beijing.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Ottawa told The Globe and Mail the country has nothing to say about the personal relationship between Mr. Dechert, 53, and Ms. Shi. Both are married to other people.
"We have noted related reports, but are in no position to comment on 'domestic disputes' and privacy of those involved," the embassy spokesman said, asking he not be named. "However, it must be pointed out that it is irresponsible to use this to defame the Chinese Government."
The Prime Minister's Office is standing by Mr. Dechert, saying it has no information to contradict the Mississauga–Erindale MP's assertion that he has not engaged in "inappropriate behaviour."
Among the cache of leaked e-mails that brought this matter to light, though, is an especially personal letter about an entanglement gone sour – one that raises more questions.
The Harper government treated this missive, written in Chinese, seriously enough that it went to the trouble of translating it while investigating what transpired between Mr. Dechert and Ms. Shi.
The e-mail, titled "Old Fox," was part of the same bundle of e-mails hacked from Ms. Shi's inbox last week and sent without her consent to more than 240 business, academic and political contacts. She blames her husband for the leak.
Mr. Dechert is never mentioned by name in this note – a fact Tory government officials cite when defending their decision to stand by the MP.
This e-mail, however, appears to be counselling Ms. Shi on a relationship she's having with an older man – something that was more a friendship and is now on the rocks.
Dated June 26, 2010, it was purportedly sent to Ms. Shi by fellow Xinhua correspondent Qu Jing.
"About the old man, tune him out," reads the e-mail from Ms. Qu, which then goes into a lengthy diatribe about how men treat their girlfriends as "clothes" that they can wear or discard as they see fit.
"About the sad tales you told me about him keeping you waiting for a long time, put it out of your mind. I have experienced the same," Ms. Qu writes to Ms. Shi. "Sweep him into dust bin, he is not good enough for you."