The chief editor of a Chinese-language newspaper published in Toronto says she was fired for running an article that was critical of Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan following complaints from the Chinese consulate and pro-Beijing groups that back Chan.
Helen Wang, the chief editor of the Chinese Canadian Post, says she decided to run the article about Chan, Ontario’s minister of citizenship, immigration, and international trade, since there had been extensive discussion in the local Chinese community after revelations that Canada’s intelligence agency CSIS had raised concerns about Chan’s close ties to the Chinese regime.
The Globe and Mail, which broke the news about Wang’s dismissal, initially reported that Wang had said complaints were raised by Chan himself as well. After the publication of the story, Michael Chan denied to the newspaper that he complained about coverage or the editorship of the Chinese Canadian Post.
Chan is currently suing the Globe after it published reports about concerns by CSIS regarding Chan’s close ties to Beijing and the agency’s briefing to Queen’s Park on the matter. The Globe and Mail’s editor-in-chief has said the paper stands by its stories.
After the initial Globe reports, Chan issued a statement denouncing the stories as a “re-hash of ludicrous allegations,” and implied that the scrutiny he is receiving is an attack on the loyalty of all new Canadians.
The article published in the Chinese Canadian Post about Chan was by freelance writer Jonathan Fon, who criticized Chan for his claim that the loyalty of all new Canadians was being questioned, saying the concerns were solely about Chan.
Fon says Chan is wrong to imply that increased scrutiny related to him also applies to other ethnic Chinese.
“If someone does so, you could say the person is taking the whole Chinese community as hostage,” he told the Epoch Times. “I think that the Chinese community should be vigilant.”
He added that he worries that the “atmosphere in the Chinese community is changing gradually to the direction of mainland China,” and that people in the community are worried about this, too.
Wang says she decided to publish the story as she believes in the freedom and independence of the press.
“What I did was for the good of the newspaper. I didn’t want it to turn out this way,” she said in an interview.
A request for an interview with the Chinese Canadian Post was not returned. Requests for comment from Michael Chan were also not responded to by press time.
Behind the Scenes
The Chinese Canadian Post used to be published as a four-page wrapper distributed with the People’s Daily (a mouthpiece of the Chinese communist regime) in Toronto, but ceased publication several years ago. It was then headed by David Lim, the executive secretary of the National Congress of Chinese-Canadians (NCCC), the Canadian representative of the People’s Daily, and an executive with the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations (CTCCO).
The paper was rebranded last year and resumed publication. This time, according to Wang, it is headed by Wei Chengyi, the current president of the CTCCO. After stories about Wang’s dismissal were published, Wei denied being affiliated with the Chinese Canadian Post.
The address published on the cover of the Chinese Canadian Post is the same as the address of the CTCCO.
The new incarnation of the paper is supported by the Fuzhou City Communist Party Committee in China. Fuzhou City, the capital of Fujian Province, has many immigrants around the world.
According to an editor’s note written in Chinese in the first edition of the rebranded paper published last December, “To satisfy the needs of Fuzhou people in Canada to know the most up-to-date news and information about their hometown, the Fuzhou City Communist Party Committee has tasked the Fuzhou Evening Newspaper to cooperate with Canada’s Chinese Canadian Post, and to run the Today’s Fuzhou special section in the Chinese Canadian Post.”
The re-launch of the publication was celebrated in a ceremony in Toronto last year attended by Michael Chan, Wei Chengyi, Fuzhou City Communist Party Secretary General Yang Yue, and the Chinese Consul General in Toronto Fang Li. The event was a welcome ceremony for Fuzhou City Communist Party head Yang, during which the re-launch of the newspaper along with several other collaboration projects with China was celebrated.
An earlier bombshell story by the Globe and Mail reported that Chan was the subject of a warning by CSIS to the Ontario provincial government in August 2010 for his close ties to the Chinese Consulate. Then-CSIS Director Richard Fadden publicly stated that two provincial ministers—one of whom the Globe confirmed to be Chan—were under the influence of a foreign regime.
As reported previously by the Epoch Times, Chan has long been a vocal supporter of the Chinese regime. At a celebration in China of the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2009, state-run Chinese media outlet Xinhua reported Chan as saying, “The motherland is great … the motherland is strong … our overseas Chinese hearts are with the motherland. We are proud of the motherland for its development.”
In an interview with a Xinhua reporter in Toronto in July 2008, just prior to his trip to attend the Beijing Olympics, Chan said he’d visited China over 70 times since the early 1980s.
Chan has denied any wrongdoing and has been defended by his party leader and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
‘Agents of Influence’
When the story on CSIS’s concerns about Chan broke, the NCCC and CTCCO, among other pro-Beijing groups in Canada, held a press conference in support of Chan and decrying the news reports.
The two organizations, along with Chan, also showed strong support for bringing the Confucius Institute to Toronto schools last year. Confucius Institutes (CIs) are agencies of the Chinese regime which, according statements from Chinese officials themselves, are meant to extend China’s soft power. The Toronto District School Board eventually voted against bringing the institute to the city after strong opposition from community members and presentations by different groups, including former CSIS senior manager Michel Juneau-Katsuya who says CIs are involved in espionage.
Juneau-Katsuya has also stated that organizations like the NCCC and CTCCO act as “agents of influence” for the Chinese regime in Canada, as reported earlier by the the Epoch Times.
According to Chen Yonglin, a former Chinese diplomat who defected to Australia in 2005, the NCCC is at the top of a pyramid of groups set up by the Chinese Embassy and consulates to control and influence the Chinese community and the Canadian government.
As Epoch Times has previously reported, a post about the CTCCO on the Chinese regime’s websites 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 raised the Tibetan separatists flag at City Hall on the day when Premier Zhu Rong Ji arrived.”
In a past interview with Epoch Times, the NCCC denied being controlled by “any party or political force.” Another attempt to talk with CTCCO was not successful, with the person who answered the phone hanging up when asked for an interview.
Beijing’s Influence on Overseas Media
A report by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Jamestown Foundation documents four ways in which the China’s communist regime controls overseas media.
“First is the attempt to directly control newspapers, television stations, and radio stations through complete ownership or owning major shares. Second is the government’s use of economic ties to influence independent media who have business relations with China. This leverage has had major effects on the contents of broadcasting and publishing, effectively removing all material deemed ‘unfavourable’ by the Chinese government,” reads the report, titled “How China’s Government Is Attempting to Control Chinese Media in America.”
“Third is the purchasing of broadcast time and advertising space (or more) from existing independent media. … Fourth is the deployment of government personnel to work in independent media, achieving influence from within their ranks,” the report continues.
The report also cites major overseas Chinese newspapers, including Sing Tao Daily, Ming Pao Daily News, and The China Press, as being directly or indirectly controlled by Beijing. A fourth publication, The World Journal, run by a parent company in Taiwan, is said to have increasingly given in to pressure from China. Sing Tao, Ming Pao, and the World Journal all have Canadian editions.
A story about the ceremony welcoming Fuzhou City Communist Party Secretary General Yang Yue and celebrating the re-launch of the Chinese Canadian Post was printed in Ming Pao and Sing Tao on the same day, with the same text, pictures, and layout design.
The Epoch Times has previously reviewed dozens of articles from The World Journal, Ming Pao, and Sing Tao during the 2008 Tibetan uprising, where a series of riots and demonstrations in different parts of Tibet was met with a violent response by Chinese paramilitary troops, resulting in many deaths.
The analysis showed that the publications relied heavily on Chinese government sources and used inflammatory quotes throughout their reports.
Chinese police were depicted as non-violent and almost passive. One report by Sing Tao said the soldiers sent in after the protests were there to “sweep the road and clean the streets.” Meanwhile, Tibetans were consistently depicted as violent, vicious, and responsible for beating police to death. The newspapers consistently repeated Beijing’s line that the Dalai Lama was behind the “severe criminal violence” in Tibet.
The Epoch Times also reported that Sing Tao republished an article in Chinese by the Toronto Star about the Tibetan unrest after editing out criticisms of the Chinese regime. Torstar Corporation, which owns the Toronto Star, holds a majority share in the Canadian edition of Sing Tao, an international Chinese-language newspaper headquartered in Hong Kong. The relationship gives Sing Tao rights to translate and publish stories from the Star.
According to the Jamestown Foundation report, employees at Ming Pao’s New York office have told sources that their “true boss” is none other than the Chinese consulate (in New York), and that they are obligated to do whatever the consulate asks.
Qinglian He, a prominent Chinese author and economist who published a study on Beijing’s control of overseas Chinese-language media in 2011, says the Chinese regime began its attempts to control overseas media in the mid-1990s, starting first with several Hong Kong-based Chinese language media, including Sing Tao and Ming Pao.
“Since the Chinese communist government accumulated financial power through reform and open-door policy, it started to fund or directly establish the seemingly independent Chinese-language media, Chinese-language schools, and encourage establishment of all kinds of Chinese organizations, as main tools of overseas United Front Work Department,” she wrote in her report.
The United Front Work Department is a Chinese Communist Party organization that works to expand the regime’s control of overseas communities.
Beyond Chinese-Language Publications
Beijing’s influence sometimes goes beyond control over Chinese-language publications. Hughes Eng, the founding director of the NCCC and a former executive of the CTCCO, boasted to a crowd of pro-communist leaders and Chinese officials in 2003 how the NCCC had convinced the Toronto Sun newspaper to apologize for a cartoon it published that was critical of the regime.
The cartoon, which was printed during the SARS outbreak, implied that SARS was “made in China.”
“The Chinese consul general in Toronto expressed indignation at the Toronto Sun’s intention to discredit the Chinese government,” Eng said, adding that, “the whole world admired and praised the Chinese government for its effort in fighting SARS. There was no such thing as a deliberate coverup.”
In 2008, during the Tibetan unrest related to the Olympics, Yan Li, a University of Waterloo instructor and the director of the Confucius Institute at the university, rallied her students to “work together to fight with Canadian media” who reported the Chinese regime’s heavy-handed tactics, the Epoch Times previously reported.
Yan Li, a former Xinhua reporter, recounted her efforts to confront media sympathetic to “Tibetan separatists” in a story posted on a website serving Chinese literature scholars in North America. One major Canadian television station apologized for its coverage as a result of the “combined efforts” of Yan and her students, she wrote.
With reporting by Anna Yang and Allen Zhou in Toronto