Big Brother knows no borders. That was the message Mr. Chen Yonglin brought this week on his first visit to Canada following his high-profile defection from the Chinese consulate in Sydney, Australia two years ago.
Through an in-depth interview and never-before-released documents provided to The Epoch Times, Chen detailed the regime’s efforts to control Chinese-language media overseas, and through student and community groups acting as front organizations, influence western government officials.
The purpose, Chen says, is to discredit and intimidate five target groups: Tibetan exiles, Taiwanese, Uighur Muslims, democracy activists, and most of all Falun Gong practitioners.
Chen served as the first secretary of the consulate in Sydney and headed up the consulate’s political department, which was responsible for taking the lead to combat the five groups.
He defected in May 2005 saying his conscience forbade him from doing the work, which he says included spying on Australians in the five groups and interfering in their activities.
Now he’s warning western governments to pay heed.
“The control of the overseas Chinese community has been a consistent strategy of the Chinese Communist Party and is the result of painstaking planning and management for dozens of years,” says Chen. “It’s not just in Australia. It is done this way in other countries like the U.S. and Canada, too.”
As head of the political department, Chen was also a member of the Special Anti-Falun Gong Working Group, which included the head of each department at the Sydney consulate and the Consul General, Chen said. He said the same group exists in Chinese missions around the world.
Minutes of one of the Working Group’s meeting provided to The Epoch Times , dated February 7, 2001, were signed off by both the consul general and deputy consul general of the consulate and included reports on 22 anti-Falun Gong activities. A translation of the minutes is given at the end of this article.
Among them is an entry about a Chinese-language newspaper that was reprimanded for publishing a Falun Gong advertisement.
The editor-in-chief and general manager of the Australian Chinese Daily are recorded as having promised not to print any Falun Gong articles or ads again and instead print anti-Falun Gong articles “recommended” by the consulate.
Also, Chen said he knew from his work at the Sydney consulate that another, paper, the Australian Chinese Times, was paid to print content from a number of newspapers in mainland China, where content is vetted by state censors and generally toes the party line.
The newspaper’s publisher appears to have confirmed such a deal.
In a speech delivered at the Chinese state-organized Global Chinese Media Forum in Nanjing, China in 2003, Australian Chinese Times Publisher Zhu Minshen boasted about his paper’s criticisms over Taiwan and Tibet independence and Falun Gong.
He added that his paper had been printing content provided by at least four newspapers from mainland China, which he described as “borrowing a boat to go overseas.”
In Canada, the Toronto-based Chinese Canadian Post is distributed with an insert of the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, which is larger than the newspaper itself. The paper’s publisher, David Lim, is known in the Toronto Chinese community for his ties to the consulate. The paper receives advertising from the Ontario government and the City of Toronto.
The Toronto edition of the Ming Pao newspaper, one of the largest newspapers read mainly by Hong Kong Chinese in Canada, also prints content from a Mainland Chinese newspaper.
Ming Pao Canada CEO Ka-Ming Lui wouldn’t describe in detail his newspaper’s arrangement with Guangzhou Daily. He denied that Ming Pao was paid to publish the content, but he also admitted Ming Pao was not paying for it.
He also said his newspaper has a clear policy not to publish Falun Gong advertisements. “This [policy] has been in place for many years–it’s no secret.” Lui said Ming Pao papers across North America follow the same policy.
New Tang Dynasty Television, which reports regularly about the persecution of Falun Gong in China ran up against this policy when it tried to place an ad for its international classical dance competition being held later this month.
Ming Pao and at least three other Toronto Chinese-language newspapers refused to print the paid advertisement. No Chinese-language newspaper, aside from the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times, would print the ad in Ottawa.
Chen described several methods that the Chinese regime uses to control the overseas media. One is to have media publish content from Mainland Chinese media. Another is to directly invest or set up fully controlled media.
Chen offered as an example the nine state-owned television channels from mainland China that were recently approved by the CRTC to broadcast in Canada.
“This is an infiltration of the Chinese Communist Party’s ideology; the purpose is to legitimize its human rights violations,” said Chen.
Another method is to give financial support and sponsorship to overseas Chinese publications, such as getting Chinese companies to buy ads.
Influence in the West
According to Chen, the Chinese missions have their voice heard in Western countries via Chinese community and student organizations that serve as fronts from the regime.
“Many of these organizations have the same or similar names in Australia, Europe, or elsewhere,” says Chen, offering as an example the “National Congress.”
In Canada, there is a “National Congress of Chinese-Canadians” with known close ties to the consulate.
Chen says Chinese missions often play the leading role in setting up Chinese professionals groups and Chinese student groups in an effort to use them to influence the mainstream.
“[In Sydney,] Chinese student association’s core meetings are usually held inside the Consulate. The heads of the student organizations are usually hand picked by the Chinese consulate. The consulate even develops new party members through student associations,” added Chen.
Another set of minutes from the Special Falun Gong Working Group, dated Feb. 23, 2001 lists plans to “mobilize Chinese, Chinese companies, Chinese students to write to the provincial government, police and foreign affairs and trade ministry’s local office, to say the Falun Gong protest in front of the Chinese Consulate obstructs them from coming to do things at the consulate.”
Chen recalled an example provided to overseas Chinese missions from Canada, where one consulate had rallied over 40 Chinese organizations to write to then-prime minister Jean Chrétien and Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley opposing Falun Gong. These organizations said they were against Falun Gong and that Falun Gong opposed the Canada China relationship.
Repressing Dissidents Top Priority
According to Chen, the effort spent by Chinese missions monitoring and repressing dissidents outweighs their other functions combined.
“The Chinese communist party is very instable. Their first priority is political stability. It dominates the foreign agenda,” says Chen.
Of the dissident groups, Falun Gong has been targeted most severely. In fact, Chen says, the anti-Falun Gong efforts consume over half of the Chinese mission’s work.
“Opposing Falun Gong is the top priority of the Chinese embassy and consulates,” Chen says.
“The Chinese Communist Party has always relied on violence, lies, and advocating atheism to maintain its power. They could not understand Falun Gong practitioners’ peaceful efforts to protect their freedom of belief.
“Now they feel they can’t let people know about what has been done to Falun Gong in China.”
Additional reporting by Anna Yang