TORONTO–In the so-called “slush fund” controversy that has engrossed Ontario’s provincial parliament for much of the last three weeks, Michael Huang has emerged a central figure.
A policy advisor in the office of Mike Colle, the provincial citizenship and immigration minister, Huang came under the spotlight last week with the news that the organization he recently directed, the Chinese Professionals Association of Canada (CPAC), received $250,000 in March from the ministry office where he worked.
The money was part of $32 million dished out by the Ontario Liberal government for services targeting new immigrants. But critics have called the money a pre-election “slush fund,” arguing that no formal application process was established, the grant opportunities were not advertised, and that some of the money went to groups with known Liberal ties, like CPAC.
Amid calls from opposition parties this week for Colle to resign and call in the auditor general, Colle’s spokesperson Rick Byan told The Epoch Times that there was no conflict of interest in the grant and that the “relationship with CPAC was well established before Michael came on board.”
Either way, the story on Huang and CPAC does not end there.
While both the minister’s office and CPAC have taken pains to stress the organization’s role in supporting new immigrants from China, CPAC and its executives have also at times weighed heavily into political issues not related to Chinese professionals, often echoing the stance of the Chinese consulate in Toronto and its communist bosses in Beijing.
Cozy With the Consul
A source well-connected in Toronto’s Chinese community who spoke on condition of anonymity described Huang as one of the Chinese consulate’s “closest friends,” and an organizer of “events and activities in which the consulate has an interest.”
Case in point was a forum held in CPAC’s Scarborough office on May 9, 2006 to rally support for nine Chinese state-run television stations’ bid to enter Canada ‘s airwaves. Huang was listed as the event contact in a Chinese media report announcing the event.
The Chinese regime promoted the nine stations as a cultural and entertainment package, but religious minorities and dissident groups say they are communist propaganda networks that spread hatred against them.
Indeed, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission found that one of the networks had on multiple occasions broadcast abusive content that could incite hatred or even violence against certain groups in Canada.
But with the endorsement of groups like CPAC, the networks got away with a warning and are now airing on Rogers Cable. Huang was reportedly singled out for praise by then-Chinese Consul General Chen Xiaoling, who noted in particular Huang’s success in rallying Chinese students to write letters to Canada’s broadcasting watchdog, CRTC.
Apparently, the Chinese consulate has been turning to CPAC for support recently, where in the past it would turn to the National Congress of Chinese Canadians, a nationwide pro-Beijing association of Chinese-Canadians.
“The NCCC lost its credibility and lost face over the head tax issue,” the source said, referring to efforts of the Chinese head tax payers to get an apology and compensation from the government for the discriminatory tax it charged to Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century.
NCCC brokered a deal in late 2005 with the then-Paul Martin Liberal government to forgo the apology and compensation in exchange for a $12.5 million educational grant that it would administer. But the Conservatives cancelled the deal and instead gave compensation to the taxpayers and spouses themselves, along with an apology.
During Chinese leader Hu Jintao’s visit to Toronto in September 2005, Huang was also seen positioning pro-Communist Party supporters to block protesters. Media reported that he led the crowd to chant, “We love Hu Jintao dearly.”
In 2004, Huang was also among a core group of Chinese consulate supporters who showed up at Toronto City Hall to protest a motion that was to recognize a “Falun Dafa Day” in the city. Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, is a spiritual practice persecuted by the communist regime in China. Huang and the others sprang to action after the Chinese consulate sent a letter to councillors and the mayor urging them not to pass the motion.
In December 2006, Huang was chief organizer of a farewell dinner for outgoing Chinese Consul General Chen Xiaoling, an event that also celebrated the landing of the nine “Great Wall” stations.
United Front Work Department
But Huang was not alone within CPAC in his pro-communist stance. Other executives, including Thomas Qu, a long-time executive and former president who is still listed as an Executive Board member on CPAC’s website, have well-known ties to the Chinese consulate.
Qu was one of only 28 overseas Chinese invited to the 10-day Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing in May 2005, a privilege reserved for only the most trusted Communist Party supporters.
The conference is tied to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, a Mao-era party organization. A document published on the website of Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, describes the United Front as being at the heart of China’s intelligence operations, and having a deceptive strategy designed to win the support of non-Party “friends” and isolate and destroy “enemies.”
Aside from the actions of individual executives, explicit pro-Beijing stances have also crept into CPAC’s tabloid-sized periodical, New Horizon, produced for its members.
The August 5, 2005 edition of the newsletter carried an article on page 3 in support of statements made by a Chinese general who threatened to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. if the U.S. came to Taiwan’s defence in a cross-strait conflict.
“[General] Zhu Chenghu’s theory of a nuclear war for the first time vividly describes how hundreds of cities east of Xian and in America could be destroyed,” the article said.
“This can be seen as the nuclear ideal and goal of the Chinese people since China first developed nuclear technology. The nuclear force is the power of a state, and the power of a state cannot lack a goal.”
According to the source familiar with the Chinese community, such views are not held by the majority of Chinese community members, or even by most members of CPAC.
She says “the Chinese consulate imposes its political line on the Chinese community,” usually through a few influential leaders of an organization, who act under the banner of the entire membership.
Tony Ye agrees. A CPAC member since 2002, Ye says he joined because of the discount car insurance that CPAC offered. He suspects many other members joined for the same reason, paying only a one-time $100 fee.
“I’ve never visited the CPAC office or used their services since I registered,” says Ye. “Sometimes they send me emails about activities, and one time they asked me to support the application for the ‘Great Wall’ television stations; I don’t have any part in the political things they do.”
Ye says he hadn’t heard that CPAC received a $250,000 grant in March.
Others who identified themselves as CPAC members on a popular Chinese-language chat room, 51.ca, also said they had not heard of the new funding, and most expressed some suspicions about it.
“We are also counted as members of CPAC by just paying a one time membership fee,” wrote one poster. “They used the name of our 20,000 people. To be honest, in these years, they did not give us many services.”
“Please stop using ‘Chinese people support …’ ‘Chinese people appeal …'” wrote another. “You [CPAC leaders] can only represent yourself or the few who protect your selfish interests.”
Traits of an Agent
Concerns over the Chinese regime’s ability to influence Canadian society and policy were brought out last week when CSIS head Jim Judd named China as the country that spy-watchers in Canada put the most effort into monitoring.
In a departure from the policy of not naming the countries it investigates, Judd told a Senate committee on foreign espionage that of 15 countries that have spies operating on Canadian soil, almost half are working for the Chinese regime.
“China got special mention, which is very unusual and very unique to a certain extent,” says former CSIS official and China expert Michel Juneau-Katsuya. “The threat as it comes from China is the efficiency and the size of their deployment. They’re really good at it [spying], and it is driven by the central government.”
According to Canadian Press, Judd explained in his testimony that the spying CSIS monitors includes efforts to collect public and private information, meddling in Canadian affairs, and stirring up trouble in ethnic communities.
The Chinese have been carrying out all three kinds, through the United Work Front Department. Juneau-Katsuya said he could not comment on what criteria CSIS uses to identify a United Work Front Department agent.
However, when provided the background on Huang’s relationship with the Chinese consulate, a government source speaking with The Epoch Times on condition of anonymity said: “This would be a typical profile of an agent acting on behalf of the United Front.”