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Vancouver’s Beijing allies align with Trudeau’s Liberals

China-sanctioned Conservative MP Kenny Chiu calls out disinformation campaign against him
The Conservatives have taken a critical approach against China in this election campaign, while the Liberal platform is silent on matters surrounding ChinaRichard Sharrocks/Getty Images

Vancouver residents supportive of the Chinese Communist Party are promoting the Liberals in Canada’s general election for the 44th Parliament on September 20.

Furthermore, Richmond Conservative MP Kenny Chiu — who was sanctioned by China in March — says there is a concerted effort to spread misinformation about him.

“I kind of anticipated some of the blowback and attacks because of my relatively strong and clear position on foreign interference and influence, and also speaking up for human rights and democracy around the world. But what I did not anticipate is some of the smears and the level of falsehood that's been circulated in WeChat and even now popping up on WhatsApp,” said Chiu, who, while in opposition since 2019, tabled a bill (C-282) to establish a national registry for foreigners engaged in political work. Chiu is also a staunch critic of the CCP’s human rights violations and supporter of Hong Kong’s democratic movement.

Messages on WeChat (China’s state-monitored social media platform), reviewed and translated by Glacier Media, generally show support for the Liberals, criticism levied against the Conservatives and indifference toward the New Democrats. They invoke racial unity and support for the Chinese government.

“Please vote for the Liberals and use your power in the Chinese community so that we can have a chance to influence the future of Canada,” one message states.

Another message circulating is addressed to “overseas Chinese.” 

It reads, in part: “As long as we ethnic Chinese unite, resolutely do not vote for those crazy sinophobic Conservative candidates and cast your precious votes for the Liberal candidates in your ridings, we will surely defeat the Conservative Party.”

The message makes no mention of domestic issues and focuses on relations/issues with China, including excusing Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for not being able to “say much” about the detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou and stating how, under the Liberals, the “door to 5G has not yet closed for Huawei” (unlike with all of Canada’s national security allies who view Huawei hardware as a CCP-controlled cyberthreat).

The message speaks highly of the CCP’s “road to socialism with Chinese characteristics” and states that if Canada can maintain friendly relations and exchanges with China, its economy will improve.

Another message falsely claims Chiu’s proposed Foreign Influence Registry Act would deem an individual under the influence of the Chinese government for attending events hosted by the Chinese consul general or the CCP’s United Front Work Department, a broad organization that aims to export Chinese nationalism to Chinese people who have emigrated from China. Rather, the bill would register foreign government officials and known associated organizations from countries in a listed schedule determined by the Canadian government (China would likely be included). The message claims if China is targeted, then America should be too.

The Hong Kong-born Steveston-Richmond East MP said he couldn’t tell if the campaign against him was an instance of foreign interference.

“I don't know, I just think that there are people hiding in the shadow with political purpose, to manipulate certain groups in our community,” said Chiu.

“The practice that they employ has definitely been improved and become far more sophisticated; you would not be able to find hard evidence that points in the direction to the regime itself,” said Chiu, who knows many Chinese people fear social and economic retribution for their families back in China should they speak against the regime here in Canada.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA), which is also supportive of the Chinese regime, recently hosted a luncheon for Liberal Josh Vander Vies, the candidate for Vancouver East, which includes Chinatown.

One of the association’s last large public events prior to the pandemic was in September 2019 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China by the CCP. As well, over the past two years, the association has bought Chinese newspaper ads denouncing the House of Commons vote declaring China is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang autonomous region (East Turkistan). It has also published ads in support of Hong Kong’s Beijing-imposed national security law, which criminalizes dissent against the communist regime and has led to the jailing of dozens of democratic politicians, journalists and students.

However, association president Fred Kwok told Glacier Media he held the luncheon at Floata restaurant for about 100 people because Vander Vies’ campaign reached out to him.

Kwok explained that his promotion of Vander Vies was not intended to be partisan.

Kwok’s WeChat invitation states, in part: “The Chinese people must show their voting power in this election. Now that this Liberal candidate is running for the first time in Van East, we the Chinese people must show the voting power to the politicians. The South Asian people already have a huge influence. The Chinese should also show solidarity. 

“When the future victory comes, at least there will be a few more MPs who would care about issues of the Chinese people.”

Kwok explained he wanted to engage the local Chinese community. He said a key issue in his riding is the loss of Chinatown businesses and racist incidents against Chinese people. 

Asked to explain why his association is otherwise so concerned in China’s domestic matters, and particularly those that are controversial against the CCP, Kwok said the concern stems from the feeling he and others have that criticism of the Chinese government equates to criticism of Chinese people and therefore racist incidents against them.

Ivy Li of the Chinese-Canadian Concerned Group on the Chinese Communist Party’s Human Rights Violation opposes the association tying Chinese government affairs to the entire “Chinese community” and says free lunches border on “vote-buying” tactics.

“Judging from all the past statements from CBA, those issues would most likely be in Beijing’s interests, not Canada’s. Therefore, ‘the Chinese people’ he mentions can’t be referring to Chinese Canadians and would not be in the best interests of Chinese Canadians either.”

Li specifically contends tying racist incidents to criticism of the CCP is intended to quell criticism against the regime in what is part of a broader effort to make Canada economically subservient to China through political policies that either favour China, such as by importing telecommunications hardware and cornering the markets on resource extraction, or by ignoring some of its perils, such as arbitrary detention of Canadian citizens, intellectual property theft and retaliatory trade measures. 

The Conservatives have taken a far more critical approach against China in this election campaign. The Conservatives, unlike the Liberals, are, among many pledges, vowing to ban Huawei from 5G networks, impose Magnitsky sanctions against human rights violators, advise universities against partnerships with China’s state-controlled companies and ban senior public office holders for five years after leaving office from employment or contracts with China’s government or an entity controlled by China’s government.

The Conservatives differentiate criticism of the Chinese government and Chinese people in their platform: “We must stand up to the Communist government of China. Our quarrel is not with the people of China.

“We stand especially with Chinese Canadians whose contributions to Canada are immeasurable and who are enduring an appalling rise in anti-Asian hate and discrimination. And we stand with Uyghur Muslims, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, Hong Kongers and Chinese Christians.”

Meanwhile, the Liberal platform is silent on matters surrounding China. 

While foreign affairs have, so far, taken a backseat during this snap election, according to a Nanos poll released Wednesday, nearly two thirds (63%) of Canadians surveyed want the next federal government to be “more forceful towards China.”

The poll (commissioned by Canada-Hong Kong Link, Saskatchewan Stands with Hong Kong, Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement and Vancouver Hong Kong Forum Society) indicates:

  • 88% support a foreign influence registry;
  • 80% support a ban on Huawei;
  • 80% say China has done a poor or very poor job at being transparent about the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in China; and
  • 62% support or somewhat support a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

According to an Angus Reid poll last March, only 14% of Canadians hold a favourable view of China, down from 58% in 2005 and 43% in 2013, when Xi Jinping became president. 

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