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Canada appoints investigator to probe alleged China election meddling

FILE PHOTO: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visits Canada

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday appointed a veteran former official to investigate alleged election interference by China, fulfilling a commitment he made earlier this month.

Trudeau said David Johnston would act as a special rapporteur. Johnston, 81, served from 2010 to 2017 as Canada's governor general, the personal representative of Queen Elizabeth, the then head of state.

Trudeau said on March 6 that he would name an independent special investigator to probe media reports China ran schemes to interfere in federal elections in 2021 and 2019. China denounced the allegations.

"Mr. Johnston will have a wide mandate to look into foreign interference in the last two federal general elections and make expert recommendations on how to further protect our democracy," Trudeau's office said in a statement.

The government would comply with Johnston's recommendations, which could include a formal inquiry, the statement said.

Trudeau, under pressure from opposition parties to take a tougher line with China, has so far side-stepped demands for a public inquiry, which in the Canadian political system can take years to complete.

Trudeau and top security officials have acknowledged interference attempts by China, but they insist that election outcomes were not altered.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Daniel Wallis)