China Propaganda Chief Makes Secretive Visit to Canada

Missteps with Chinese officials shows Canadian PM getting bad advice on China, says ex-secretary of state

By Matthew Little
Epoch Times Staff
Created: April 26, 2012 Last Updated: October 15, 2012
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Abrupt Terminations

Kilgour said the prime minister needs capable China advisers able to understand the situation unfolding in that country now. Otherwise, Canada will look absurd as events play out and its closest China connections continue to be cadres with careers marked by brutality and abrupt termination.

Those terminations are climbing ranks, and Epoch Times analysts are expecting Bo’s former protector and one of the regime’s most powerful figures, Zhou Yongkang, will be next to fall. Zhou heads China’s all-powerful internal security apparatus, which controls a massive surveillance network as well as China’s police and courts.

For several weeks, The Epoch Times has been pointing to evidence that Zhou is on the ropes, and recently many large media organizations have also reported that the sharks appear to be circling the communist security chief. It’s all bad news for Li, a close ally of both Bo and Zhou.

Li may have left China for a trip to four nations to escape the fallout of those struggles, said Sheng Xue, a prominent Chinese democracy activist in Toronto.

“He wants to keep his power after the struggle, so he chose to leave,” said Xue, adding that Li may actually have connections on both sides of the struggle and so left the country to avoid having to position himself.

Li has already been forced to oust his past ally Bo after his fellow eight members on the regime’s ruling Standing Committee supported purging Bo.

While Li may now wish to avoid stating allegiances, he has traditionally been associated with Jiang’s clique. According to one news report from Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, Li has already come under censure amid the fallout surrounding Bo.

Propaganda Czar Zealous in Persecutions

A spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s Office said Thursday’s sit-down with Li was a courtesy meeting, a casual chitchat with Li to exchange niceties with no formal business agenda.

Li is due to be retired from the Politburo’s Standing Committee, the nine-member organ that rules China, due on an age limit put in place by Jiang. Though Li has no official government role, his position within the Party—and the Party’s control of the government—makes him one of the most powerful people in China.

In his role as head of the Orwellian-titled Central Guidance Commission for Building Spiritual Civilization and Central Leading Group for Propaganda and Ideological Work, Li controls what 1.3 billion Chinese people see, hear, and speak.

Like Bo and Zhou, who Jiang raised from lesser positions, Li climbed through the ranks by making zealous efforts in Jiang’s campaign to crush Falun Gong. Before being banned in 1999, the spiritual group had attracted 100 million adherents pursuing spiritual enlightenment via its tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

As the regime’s propaganda czar, it has fallen to Li to maintain the demonization of Falun Gong necessary to justify the crackdown. Meanwhile, he must also ensure all media in China follow the Party line, regulate censorship, and carry out propaganda campaigns as needed.

In March 2008, it fell on Li to formulate propaganda to justify a violent crackdown on protests in Tibet on the eve of the 2008 Olympics.

Fear of Protests, Lawsuits Abroad

Li’s propaganda responsibilities include enhancing China’s soft power abroad.

During his trip, Li opened another Confucius Institute in Canada at Carleton University in Ottawa.

The schools have come under criticism from experts in the intelligence community for possible espionage work while others criticize the institutes for giving students a distinctly communist perspective on contemporary issues.

The institutes are a central plank in the regime’s efforts to extend its soft power.

But even that ribbon cutting ceremony was not announced. A spokesperson from the university said it was because it was a private ceremony and the public was not invited.

Lucy Zhou with the Falun Dafa Association of Canada said she suspects Li is afraid of attracting critics if his agenda is known in advance.

“I can certainly understand when officials heavily involved in persecution come overseas, they want to keep their itinerary secretive because they are afraid of protests and lawsuits,” said Zhou.

Efforts to sue Li for persecuting Falun Gong adherents were made when Li went to Ireland in 2010 and France in 2004.

Such lawsuits against Bo Xilai caused his downfall in 2007, according to U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.

Premier Wen Jiabao argued at the 17th National Congress that Bo, then the minister of commerce, should not be promoted to the Standing Committee because of the bevy of lawsuits against him. Bo was instead demoted to Party chief of Chongqing.

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