As parliamentarians announce plans to visit Taiwan this fall, dozens of Canada-based groups known for their pro-Beijing positions are voicing support for communist China’s threat to take control over the self-ruled island.
Liberal MP Judy Sgro announced last month that members of a parliamentary committee are planning a trip to Taiwan, which came after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a stop at the island in early August during her Asia tour.
Pelosi’s visit was met with fierce criticism from Beijing, which says Taiwan is a rogue province that should be “reunited” with mainland China, even though the communist regime never ruled the island. Beijing has refused to rule out using force to “reunify” with Taiwan, and has been making increasingly aggressive threats to do so in recent years.
Some groups have echoed Beijing’s position, declaring support for the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “reunification” with Taiwan and saying that it is a “sacred mission of all Chinese sons and daughters at home and abroad.”
These remarks were seen in a letter, published in Dawa News, a Chinese-language news outlet based in Canada. The letter claims that Chinese-Canadians will “firmly support” communist China to fight against “any external forces that try to split and undermine China’s unity.”
The letter was published on Aug. 16, the same day that Sgro announced that parliamentary members of the Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group will be visiting Taiwan in the fall.
The letter also cites a CCP white paper on Taiwan, saying the paper is a demonstration of the will of the Chinese regime and people to pursue reunification. The paper, entitled “The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era,” was prompted by Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, and says that Taiwan has been part of China since ancient times and the island’s reunification with the mainland represents a historic mission for the ruling CCP.
Signatories of the letter in Dawa News include groups like the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations, Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, and many others.
Hilbert Yiu, a former chairman of the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, said in an interview in Mandarin that Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan was a “publicity stunt,” aimed to pull China into war.
Pifeng Hu, the honorary president of the Richmond, B.C.-based Peace and Development Forum of Canada Society which also signed the letter, said his organization had held public discussions about Taiwan issues, but had never invited anyone who supported the official independence of Taiwan because that position is incompatible with that of his group’s members.
In January 2021, Hu’s organization co-hosted a forum discussion with the group China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification (China Council), during which participants called for Taiwan’s reunification with China within the next decade, reported Radio Free Asia.
On Aug. 17, the China Council also held a forum in the Greater Toronto Area to voice support for Beijing’s stance in its white paper and to condemn Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. The China Council is chaired by Wang Yang, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest elite circle of the Chinese Communist Party.
Angel Liu, the director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver, which represents Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry, said the Dawa News letter had been forwarded to her by many Taiwanese-Canadians and it expressed views that were “not acceptable at all by all overseas Taiwanese.”
She said the Chinese regime was stepping up messaging in Canada in relation to Taiwan.
“I don’t know if the strategy is useful for others, but it’s useless to Taiwanese-Canadians,” Liu told The Canadian Press in an interview in Mandarin.
David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said he accepted the right of groups to hold different opinions, but he was sometimes concerned whether organizations were repeating views at the behest of foreign governments.
“And again, I’m not saying that’s happening in this case, but this is where my concern is. What I would like to be sure of is that all organizations are expressing their own personal views, and not passing on the views of another unnamed actor, because then that, I think, is problematic,” Mulroney told The Canadian Press.
He noted that Canada had no law requiring individuals or groups to register their activities if they were lobbying on behalf of a foreign state, unlike countries such as Australia.
Public Safety Canada said the RCMP was aware of “foreign actor interference activity” in Canada, and had “various methods and techniques” in place to combat this.
Measures Against Taiwan
Prior to Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took both economic and military measures to intimidate Taiwan, and continued to ramp up military exercises, including conducting live-fire military drills, in the Taiwan Strait and neighbouring regions. These measures have drawn criticism from Canada and the international community.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has called on Beijing to deescalate tensions against Taiwan during a press conference on Aug. 3, while Defence Minister Anita Anand said China has no justification for using Pelosi’s visit as a pretext to conduct “aggressive military activity.”
In a statement in response to Canadian parliamentarians’ plan to visit Taiwan, the Chinese Embassy said Canada should abide by the One China policy, which recognizes the communist Beijing as the legitimate government of mainland China, and does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation.
Beijing’s Foreign Ministry had earlier summoned Canadian diplomat Jim Nickel over Canada’s participation in the release of a joint statement from G-7 foreign affairs ministers, calling on China to deescalate tensions surrounding the U.S. House Speaker’s trip to Taiwan.
The Chinese Embassy in Canada also released a statement on Aug. 5, condemning the release of the G-7 statement and Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. It also described the Canadian foreign affairs minister’s call for China to deescalate as “false accusations” against China.
On Aug. 19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Beijing’s “belligerence” is “troubling,” and that Canada will make sure that the parliamentarians’ plan to visit Taiwan “will be done with all the reflections of the consequences and the impacts of it.”
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.