PARLIAMENT HILL—Xinhua News Agency won’t be kicked out of the Parliament Hill Press Gallery for espionage due to a lack of testimony from the key parties, the board of the Parliamentary Press Gallery decided Wednesday morning.
The executive board of the gallery has been dealing with the issue since April when former Xinhua reporter Mark Bourrie quit Xinhua and came forward with allegations he had been tasked with collecting intelligence for the Chinese regime that was not intended for publication.
Board president Chris Rands of CBC described the issue as an employee/employer dispute that had broader implications.
There is no indication—and several board members refused to comment—as to whether the board had examined Xinhua in any way beyond Bourrie’s allegations.
Xinhua vies with CCTV as the Chinese Communist Party’s most powerful propaganda organ and is directly under the control of the CCP’s propaganda department. According to Reporters Without Borders, Xinhua has major responsibilities censoring news in China and communicating the Party line.
Over its 70-plus-year history, that line has included policies advocating for class warfare, murder, religious suppression, and what some human rights groups describe as genocide.
Only one board member, Paul McLeod of the Chronicle Herald, wanted to take any action. McLeod proposed demoting Xinhua to temporary membership in order to avoid having to defend the Chinese state news agency in the future.
McLeod cited the recent example of Xinhua being barred from a Department of Defence technical briefing on Canada’s first military satellite as an example of a situation in which the Press Gallery may be forced to stand up for Xinhua.
McLeod could not find a seconder for his proposal.
In voting to drop the matter, several board members raised concerns about the issue but said that without Bourrie or Xinhua’s representatives coming forward, there was little to be done.
Bourrie detailed his accusations at length in an Ottawa Magazine article published in July. He wrote that he took the job with Xinhua with some hesitation that increased over time.
His boss, ex-military officer Zhang Dacheng, one time asked Bourrie to find out about who were protesting Hu Jintao’s 2010 visit to Ottawa and where those people were staying. Bourrie refused.
Bourrie continued with the agency, lured in part by a steady pay cheque, he told The Epoch Times in an earlier interview. Over his time there, it was normal to see Bourrie and Xinhua’s photographer and videographer present at events held by Chinese dissidents that did not appear to be published.
Eventually, Bourrie quit, unable to face the prospect of being used as a spy any longer. He noted that his coverage of Chinese political dissidents was not being used for publication but for intelligence purposes.
Xinhua has hired a lawyer in Ottawa to handle the matter. McLeod said he was worried that a “legal chill” had settled over the issue, making Bourrie reluctant to appear before the board.
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