Chinese Diplomat Rallies Support for Confucius Institute in Toronto Schools

Request for support from Chinese community comes just days after Beijing proposed ending the partnership
October 27, 2014 Updated: October 30, 2014

Just a few days after Chinese officials issued a letter seeking to end an agreement with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to establish a Confucius Institute in Toronto schools, the Toronto Chinese consul general is trying to get the Chinese community to support keeping the institute. 

Epoch Times reported on Oct. 25 that less than a week before the TDSB votes on ending its partnership with the controversial Confucius Institute (CI), the Hunan Provincial Department of Education, which is to supply instructors and members on the CI’s advisory board under the existing agreement, issued a letter proposing ending the partnership. 

The move was seen by at least one trustee as a “face-saving measure” as it is expected that the board will vote against keeping its partnership with the CI at a meeting on Oct. 29. 

Consul General Fang Li said during a banquet on Oct. 25 that the roadblocks the CI has encountered in coming to Toronto schools has ruined the relationship between Canada and China, according to a report by the Chinese-language publication Ming Pao. The event was hosted by the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations (CTCCO) to bid farewell to Chinese Vice General Consul Dongmei Wu and welcome his replacement Chuanbing Zhang. 

According to Ming Pao, the consul general said that the “TDSB unilaterally tore up the agreement, the Chinese side was hurt, and [therefore] initiated the termination of the agreement,” and asked members of the Toronto Chinese community to support keeping the CI in Toronto schools. He also expressed hope that the new trustee board to be elected on Oct. 27 will consider re-opening the CI.

Ming Pao also reported that Chengyi Wei, chair of the CTCCO, which hosted the banquet the consul general attended, called on the Chinese community to voice support for CIs and “gather round” the TDSB when the board votes on terminating its partnership with the institute. 

Beijing-run Confucius Institutes are branded as cultural programs with a mission to teach Chinese language and culture. However, they have been cited by Chinese officials as tools to advance the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) soft power, and Western counterintelligence officials have said the institutes are involved in espionage

“Through many years of effort, we have now found the way to cultivate and prepare supporters for our Party,” Hu Jintao, former leader of the CCP, once said about CIs. “This is our army for future cadets and it is our most important soft power.”

Questioning ‘the real alliance’

During an address to a TDSB committee that voted to end the partnership with CIs earlier this month before the issue goes before the entire board on Oct. 29, Michel Juneau-Katsuya, former chief of Asia-Pacific for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said that CIs engage in espionage activities and are part of a larger network of organizations used by the CCP to advance its influence abroad. 

He also provided evidence that many groups rallying people in the Chinese community to support CIs are closely linked to CCP organizations with espionage budgets in the billions of dollars. 

“If the Canadian public wants something, our democratic system allows us to ask for it. But when dealing with certain Chinese organizations, we can question their real alliance,” Juneau-Katsuya wrote in a report submitted to the committee. 

“Many organizations have been very vocal in the arrival of Confucius Institute. They are following Beijing’s request, not the Canadian constituents.”

Some of the pro-CI organizations Juneau-Katsuya named with close ties to the CCP include the CTCCO; the National Congress of Chinese Canadians (NCCC) and its founder Ping Tan; the Chinese Professional Association of Canada (CPAC); and the Beijing Association of Canada. 

A post about the CTCCO on the Chinese regime’s website states: “Whenever there is something against China’s interests, CTCCO will organize parades to protest or use media to protect the image of China … such as [the time] they protested the Mayor of Saint John who rose the Tibetan Separatists flag in City Hall on the day when Premier Zhu Rong Ji arrived.”

Former Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin, who defected to Australia in 2005, told Epoch Times that the NCCC is at the top of a pyramid of groups set up by the Chinese Embassy and consulates in Canada, with the goal to control and influence the Chinese community and the Canadian government. 

Requests seeking interviews with the NCCC, CPAC, and the Beijing Association of Canada were not answered. The person who answered the phone at the CTCCO hung up when asked about an interview.

In a past interview with Epoch Times, the NCCC denied being controlled by “any party or political force.”

Requests seeking comments from the Chinese Consulate were not answered by press time.

Follow Omid on Twitter: @OGhoreishi