There is mounting evidence of the Chinese Communist Party’s infiltration of the West, from harassing academics to stealing sensitive technology to allowing the spread of deadly fentanyl.
Most recently, Professor Anne-Marie Brady, a leading authority on Chinese communist influence, was put under investigation by her New Zealand university. The circumstances are suspicious, to say the least, and Brady has been a target of the Chinese Communist Party for years.
In this episode, we sit down with China expert Charles Burton, a senior fellow at Canada’s Macdonald-Laurier Institute, who organized a letter signed by over 250 China experts and academics, showing support for Anne-Marie Brady and her work.
This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Charles Burton, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Charles Burton: Great to be with you, Jan.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, in fact, a fellow Canadian, it’s great to welcome you. I suppose a Canadian thought leader is more appropriate in this instance.
Mr. Burton: Yeah, I guess so. Well, we’re in North America, so I guess I’m a North American thought person. I’m not sure if I’m a leader.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, and we’re actually going to be talking about someone on a different continent altogether, Anne-Marie Brady from New Zealand at the University of Canterbury. And she, back in 2017, wrote a very important report titled, “Magic Weapons” talking all about the Chinese Communist Party’s influence operations. Today, it seems like she’s being targeted by these influence operations at her university. And I’m wondering, can you tell us what’s going on here?
Mr. Burton: Well, yes, you’re right. Even prior to the release of the Magic Weapons report—which she delivered to a conference in Arlington, Virginia that I had the privilege to attend in the fall of 2017—Anne-Marie’s been subject to various forms of harassment. She’s had her office and house broken into. She had interference with the brake cables of her car, and now she’s being subjected to a university internal secret council on the basis that evidence that she gave to the Parliament of New Zealand, a report about the influence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in academic research in New Zealand institutions, has somehow rather violated the university’s academic freedoms policy.
And so she’s up against a non-transparent tribunal without the guarantees of due process of law that one would normally expect if someone was, say, being sued for libel. And it’s possible that, as a result of this, she’ll be subjected to discipline that will result in her not having that university platform to continue her important work exposing the activities of the Chinese Communist Party United Front Work Department, which has penetrated so many Western countries and had a very corrosive influence on the formation of China policy that is in the interest of those countries and not in the interest of the overall agenda of the People’s Republic of China in those nations.
So this is a very serious situation, and one which all of us who are engaged in political science research on China are watching very carefully for fear that if this succeeds in silencing Professor Brady and preventing her from continuing her research, that comparable actions may be taken against professors and scholars in other countries doing the same thing.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, this really sounds like Orwellian-type stuff. For myself, knowing the work that Professor Anne-Marie Brady has done, has been incredibly helpful to those of us very interested in the Chinese Communist Party and China and how it is basically manipulating other governments to do its bidding. But there’s apparently, it’s over 250 now, China scholars who have signed a letter in her support. Can you tell me about that?
Mr. Burton: Yes. We organized this letter and distributed it to our colleagues throughout the world who have knowledge of this area. And the gist of the letter is that these colleagues affirm that there is nothing in Professor Brady’s meticulously researched parliamentary report which is in any way inaccurate or characterizing university relationships with People’s Liberation Army research institutions and People’s Liberation Army scholars that would be any cause for any such internal university process.
I wonder if the University of Canterbury has ever engaged in a tribunal on the basis of their academic freedoms policy. One would normally expect under these circumstances that if people feel that they’ve been libeled in print, that they would pursue it through the civil courts, where it would be an open, transparent process with due process of law and an opportunity for the accused to defend themselves and for the person who feels they’ve been libeled to explain why what was printed about them was not a fair characterization.
Or the other would be that if there is a feeling that Professor Brady has not used the academic process that is up to the standards of her discipline—political science—that her professional organization would have scholars review her paper and see if there was some problem in the peer review process, or scholars who disagreed with the methodology and therefore the conclusions that she drew to publish papers to rebut and refute her.
But the idea of the administration of a university pursuing a scholar for something that they have written, claiming it’s on the basis of their academic freedom policy does seem, as you say, quite Orwellian. In other words, it does seem to be that they’re pursuing academic non-freedom instead of academic freedom in the case of this particular scholar.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, and it seems like, again, and you can kind of dig into this for me, hopefully, it seems like she’s being targeted by the exact methods that she is an expert on—ironically, perhaps.
Mr. Burton: Well, I think certainly it’s very damaging to China’s investment in United Front Work, if it becomes transparent, and sunshine is the best disinfectant. And I would say that the Australian laws against, their Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act, which requires transparency from policymakers and retired government officials who are in receipt of benefits from a foreign state to lay that out in the open, is a direct result of the kind of very convincing evidence that Professor Brady has been able to turn up on the operations of covert, coercive, or corrupt activities by agents of the Chinese state, including persons with diplomatic protections, who are engaged in this work at a very large scale in Western nations. So what this amounts to is that she has to defend herself.
And in addition to the 250 person letter, we’ve now formed a foundation to try and provide support for the legal expenses of persons like Professor Brady, who will be the first recipient of support, and others in future to ensure that lawfare is not used to suppress the work of people who are working in areas that the Chinese government would prefer not be done.
This foundation is located on the internet at chinadem.org, China Democracy Foundation, chinadem.org, and anyone who would like to make a donation, big or small, is most welcome to go there and click on the link and enter their credit card number or PayPal. We’ve had donations as small as three US dollars and quite a number of thousand dollar donations. Right now we’re up to about $10,000, which is approximately half of what we feel Professor Brady will require for legal expenses and her own other expenses such as travel to Wellington to consult with the lawyers and so on.
So let’s hope that this action on the part of Canterbury University fails because if they succeed in disciplining Professor Brady, meaning that Anne-Marie can no longer function as a professor and publish more of this important work, that it could embolden whoever is ultimately behind it to go after a lot of other scholars who are following Professor Brady’s lead in exposing Chinese influence operations in their own countries.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s incredible to kind of watch this happen in real time. You’ve actually written the foreword to a really excellent book called “The Hidden Hand” that chronicles a lot of various types of Chinese influence operations. I recommend everyone pick up that book if you’re interested in the topic. It’s fantastic! I’m wondering if you could kind of explain to me, well, even before we go in there, why you’re sure the Chinese Communist Party is involved in what the university is doing to Professor Brady?
Mr. Burton: Well, we don’t have any evidence of direct Chinese government involvement. The university has certainly not raised that. But I think in general, we know that universities around the world are more and more dependent on the high foreign student fees paid by international students and that the vast majority of those are students from the People’s Republic of China.
And so, the government of China continues to monitor those students through the Chinese Students and Scholars Associations that the embassies and consulates set up at these universities, and require that they do reporting back to Beijing in accordance with the Chinese intelligence law. Which requires all Chinese citizens to collaborate with intelligence and security agencies and the military on demand. And some degree of coercion of the students to collaborate with the regime, lest their families back in China would be subject to pressure from the Chinese authorities, not to speak of, we know the pervasive use of digital files that China is employing.
That means that any student who was not seen as fully collaborative with a request from a consulate or embassy to engage in forms of espionage or information gathering, that would have a negative impact on their future should they choose to return to China. So from that point of view, I think the universities are open to concerns expressed by their student communities, by scholars of People’s Republic of China origin, or you know, for that matter, education officers in the consulates and embassies about their concerns over what kind of activities the university engages in.
So particularly with the many universities that have Confucius Institutes, I think there’s a pretty clear understanding that the Confucius Institute would not be able to sponsor a talk by a scholar who wants to talk about the situation of Chinese genocide in northwest China against the Turkic Muslim people or about China’s repression of religion and culture and language in Tibet. If you want to keep receiving the Chinese money, there are certain areas that are no-go zones, and the universities know that. Well, certainly Professor Brady is a major cause of concern to the Chinese regime because of how well she has highlighted the concerns that governments should have about creeping Chinese influence into policy making circles and into influential corporate elements in all of our societies.
And so it seems reasonable to assume that the Chinese diplomatic officials in New Zealand would be quite happy to see Professor Brady ceasing to function as a scholar in this area. But in terms of a direct connection, we have no smoking gun or any indication from the university that they have been spoken to by Chinese officials. Professor Brady has suggested in the past that Chinese government is attempting to sabotage her work and life, but up to now, no Chinese diplomats have been persona non grata and police investigations have been inconclusive.
Mr. Jekielek: And in terms of collaborations of the University of Canterbury with Chinese universities. How does that look?
Mr. Burton: Well, she’s shown that there are scholars at Canterbury and other New Zealand universities who seem to have an awful lot of connection to defense-related institutions in China. They have the Thousand Talents Program, where the Chinese government encourages scholars, accomplished scholars, to come to China and transfer some of their research technology.
So you do have situations where scholars have had great success in certain key areas of research, often dual-use technologies—civil and military use technologies—or advances in wireless telephone technologies of high interest to the Huawei company who are given funds to set up parallel labs in China or given opportunities to lecture in China. It’s hard to draw a line about the legality of it. If they are transferring classified technologies to agents of a Chinese state, that, of course, would be a violation of law. But there’s a lot of ambiguity.
And the enterprise of universities is the sharing of knowledge and collaboration and coming to push forwards the boundaries of our technical expertise in all sorts of areas. And so the universities may encourage Chinese scholars to come into labs and work and encourage their professors to go to China to present their research results because the universities don’t see themselves as having a mandate for the protection of their nation’s national security. Their mandate is for sharing knowledge. So I think from that point of view, there are a lot of things that we have to be looking into much more closely.
We do know that in the United States, there’s currently some scholars who have been detained for visa fraud because they came to work in labs in the United States, they’re engaged in sensitive technical research, without revealing that they are active duty military officers and falsifying their institutional affiliation. Well, we know from work by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that this is not a problem simply in the United States, but that there are military researchers who have managed to get into labs working on these sensitive topics throughout the world, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s astounding, and it’s actually a little even more complicated, I think, because of this academic-military fusion situation that’s basically par for the course in China but very different in the West. Can you tell me about that?
Mr. Burton: Well, in China, you have no distinction between the Chinese Communist Party and the state, and Chinese state owned businesses, and, in fact, any Chinese business. They all have Communist Party branches at the top of their pyramid. If you look at the organogram, the Communist Party Secretary is at the peak and the chairman or board of directors are below that. And they work in a coordinated way.
So Chinese firms, on the one hand, can draw on all the resources of the state so they can get information about their competitors’ R&D through cyber espionage coordinated by the People’s Liberation Army. And they’re required to serve the state in gathering information of use to the Chinese Communist Party and its five year planning process. And the People’s Liberation Army is loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, not to the state. So it’s the Party’s army. So the Party works in a highly coordinated and sophisticated way.
We have no comparable way to challenge that because our universities, our civil institutions, they’re not under direct control of the government. And no Western firm could call upon the NSA or the CIA to assist them in figuring out what their competitors are doing to save on R&D by stealing the stuff or getting information about bids on international contracts and that sort of thing, such as the Chinese regime does.
And certainly a lot of China’s prosperity has been built on purloining the research results of others through coercing partners, Western partners who want to go into China to save on cost of production to provide their technology. Or placing people, placing agents into Western firms to transfer proprietary manufacturing processes and intellectual property back to China for use by Chinese state firms.
Mr. Jekielek: Charles, this strikes me, going back to the situation with Professor Anne-Marie Brady, just the very fact that these proceedings were initiated has, to me, a significant kind of chilling effect, so to speak, on academics, at least that’s my feeling. It sort of speaks to this kind of self-censorship, with the knowledge that you may be targeted, or this might happen to you.
Mr. Burton: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: And this is something the CCP really uses. And, if you could sort of expound on that a little bit.
Mr. Burton: Yes, I think that that’s right. I mean, what junior researcher would want to go into this area if they face the risk of being financially ruined by lawfare proceedings against them or being banned from the university that they have worked hard to gain an academic position in because the university is under pressure to prevent this avenue of research from being pursued?
So I quite agree with you. I think that the field is one that needs a lot more minds working on it because the problem is so horrendous and complex, and the number of people who have the training and the will to engage in this research against considerable resistance from their institutions and other elements associated with the Chinese state is a serious, serious problem.
Really, governments, instead of relying on Confucius Institutes to increase China expertise in their countries, ought to be allocating significant resources to the creation of a cohort of scholars who have fluency in the Chinese language, written and spoken, so that they can keep on top of what China’s doing. And who then have the expertise to be able to go into security and intelligence areas to properly counter the activities of agents of influence of the Chinese regime who seem to operate in the West almost unhindered.
Mr. Jekielek: So something very curious. A lot of, certainly in Canada, it’s part of the Commonwealth. We all know New Zealand exists. It’s very far away. We don’t know that much about it in the US, I suspect, it’s even less known as a country and so forth. We do know that the Chinese Communist Party has seemingly disproportionate interest in influence there. And I’m wondering if you could explain why that might be?
Mr. Burton: Well, I think for one thing, they can. It’s an asymmetrical power relationship. It’s a largely agricultural country and strategically located so that if China was able to gain a tip over the balance of influence and become the dominant influence in New Zealand over, say, the United States and the western west democracies, that China could then use it for military and strategic purposes. It’s an area open to Antarctica. And if you look on the map, it may seem far away, but it really is a place that has a lot of strategic potential for the Chinese regime.
And so we also see a lot of Chinese activity in Australia based on the Australian economy’s dependence on China, things like iron ore and barley and so on. A terrific amount of the Australian economy is based on continuing access to the Chinese market, which China is trying to coerce political concessions on the part of Australia in return for not blocking access to their market. So I think there’s a lot to be said for the resistance that Australia has shown to China by enacting things as I mentioned, the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act, and by becoming much more serious about Chinese corrupt business activities in Australia. And I think that New Zealand is likely to follow suit.
Certainly, when you look at the nations of the world, their response to China seems to vary. Canada [is] only dependent on less than 4% of our external trade to China. But in terms of our challenging China’s geostrategic expansion into Canada, Canada has so far proven to be one of the countries that China is able to achieve the most in in terms of influence operations and preventing Canada from opposing Chinese international activities incompatible with the international rules based order in trade and diplomacy, including trying to support for dictatorial rogue dictatorship regimes and territorial expansion in the South China Sea.
So, Canada, one doesn’t really know why Canada has proven to be such fertile soil for Chinese regime penetration. But as a researcher, I’d like to look into that a bit more and see if we can get to the bottom of it and find that perhaps there’s some policymakers who would be reluctant to continue collaborating with the Chinese regime if their activities became more generally known. As I said, sunshine is the best disinfectant, and one wagon Canadian newspapers compared it to the Epstein sex scandal. They said that once this stuff comes out, there’ll be all sorts of people who claim that they hardly ever knew Beijing.
Mr. Jekielek: I’ve been kind of fascinated by this. Here in the US, probably the closest relationship—and this is a bit of a generalization, but I think it’s fair to say—the closest relationship between [this] kind of a body in the US, and say Wall Street and Beijing. There’s a lot of close ties there and certainly with some of the larger investment firms. That is the case. Is there something like that in Canada as well, where … there’s large industry financial connections?
Mr. Burton: Absolutely. I think that you do have major Canadian firms who have extensive, lucrative relationships with Chinese communist business networks, who also have considerable influence at the most senior levels of government. And their line is that the most important thing in the Canada-China relationship is the promotion of Canadian prosperity through trade and investment. So we should be doing everything we can to enhance that. And everything else in terms of China’s international behavior or domestic human rights abuse should be subordinated to the larger goal of Canada reducing our economic dependence on the United States and increasing our prosperity with China.
And I think that this elite group, who have this economic interest, also support the general idea that liberal democracy, led by the United States, is in decline. That China is on the rise, and therefore, we should, can’t beat them, join them, get with the program and compromise on our commitment to human rights and democracy and freedom and do what the Chinese government wants and hope that the Chinese government will reward us.
I do think that there are some concerns, particularly with regard to the Canadian Arctic—China now defining itself as a near-Arctic state—as it is, in fact, not near the Arctic at all. That Canadian sovereignty up there could be affected if the Chinese government decides to go into the Arctic and put together ports, military bases, and other trade facilities.
Mr. Jekielek: So this economic relationship that you’re describing, the proposed economic relationship, or even developing economic relationship that you’re describing, comes with some pretty serious strings attached. For example, we’ve been learning a lot about Huawei and the implications of it being—like I actually learned.
A past student of mine called me up, I think about a year ago and said, “Hey, I’m working for one of the Canadian telecommunications firms,” he says. “Oh, we use Huawei towers. Do you think that’s an issue, Jan?” And I was just stunned because I didn’t even realize that Huawei had towers in British Columbia, that it was operating, and of course, we know that these systems are thoroughly penetrated by Chinese security services and so forth. But that’s just one example. What are the strings attached for any nation to develop this economic relationship as you’re describing, while ignoring, let’s say, the incredible human rights violations we’re aware of in China?
Mr. Burton: Yeah, so if you do look at the Huawei situation, there are three major Canadian telecommunications companies—Rogers, Bell, and Telus. And Bell and Telus’s 3G and 4G installations are almost entirely Huawei because Huawei sells at a cheaper price than the other firms—Samsung, Ericsson, and Nokia. And it’s become pretty apparent through good research that Huawei receives considerable subsidies from the Chinese state because it’s not just about selling the product to transmit communications but the possibilities for cyber espionage, for the ability to put in kill switches into water and electricity and so on in times of tension that make it worthwhile for the Chinese state to subsidize Huawei so that Huawei can dominate global telecommunications.
And from Bell and Telus’s point of view, who, like the universities, the telephone companies’ interest is in maximizing profits for shareholders, so the cheaper equipment is desirable. And now that they have such a high degree of Huawei 3G and 4G installation, if the government of Canada determined that Huawei 5G cannot be installed in the Canadian telecommunications networks, Bell and Telus would face considerable costs in taking out their earlier Huawei equipment to bring in kit that would be compatible with, say, Ericsson or Nokia installation.
So that puts a lot of pressure on the government to make this decision on Huawei. The Canadian government has been promising to make a decision on Huawei for getting on for two years now. and no decision has happened. And I think that’s indicative of the pressure of Chinese business interests. But we have a situation, for example, where the Chinese ambassador to Canada gave an interview where he made a veiled threat against the health and safety of 300,000 Canadians resident in Hong Kong if Canada was to provide safe harbor provisions for the Hong Kong democracy activists who are now under risk of political persecution due to the promulgation of the National Security Law.
Canada was given an opportunity by both the government of Britain and the government of China to endorse the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong when it was lodged with the UN. China is now violating that declaration. Canada would have a moral responsibility to take in people from Hong Kong who would like to come to Canada. In addition to the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong, there are also 300,000 or so persons of Hong Kong origin in Canada, so Canada would be a natural venue for people to seek refuge. And our government, unlike the government of Australia, has so far refused to do it. Well, then, any ambassador, any normal, [or] any ambassador of any other country that made a veiled threat against the safety of Canadians in their country—and the ambassador’s given an opportunity to walk away from it, asked to make a clarification as to whether he really meant that and he refused to turn it down—any other ambassador who made a statement of that menacing nature would be declared persona non grata and flying out of Ottawa within 48 hours.
But in the case of the Chinese ambassador, he’s invited in for a coffee and a chat with our foreign ministry officials about how, would he please play nicer in future? So that in itself is an indication of how severely penetrated Canada is because we allow the Chinese regime to engage in thuggery and threatening behaviors such as we would not tolerate from any other country. And furthermore, we do have serious problems of harassment by agents of the Chinese state against Uyghurs, Tibetans and Chinese democracy activists. And up to now, our Canadian government has not seen fit to take any action to try and protect those people from this ongoing program. And I think it’s similarly due to pressure from Canadian business, which says, “Don’t do anything that the Chinese Embassy would not like, or we will suffer economically.”
Mr. Jekielek: So this hits very close to home. As a Canadian, I actually have numerous friends who have been subjected to exactly this sort of harassment by agents of the Chinese Communist Party. Not sure how this could even be possible in a democratic society with no recourse, no response?
Mr. Burton: Well, I think certainly there is a lot more influence of the Chinese government in Canada than in the United States because it’s an asymmetrical relationship, and I think that’s really why Canada has to start taking some of the call from US Secretary of State Pompeo. That we need to develop some kind of coalition to try and act in one group to try and challenge China, particularly things like hostage diplomacy. Where Chinese government has been arbitrarily detaining citizens of foreign countries to try and gain leverage on political matters that we really cannot tolerate any further.
And the only way for us to effectively challenge it is if we all stand together. This is certainly something that I would like to see Canada taking the lead in, but up to now, there’s a lot of talk about the desirability of this, but no country so far has taken the lead in calling the meeting where the institution to try and develop transnational institutions to counter the threat to the international order and the values that ensure justice and reciprocity in trade and diplomacy are maintained. So China is still able to carry on in this kind of way. The statement that I alluded to by the Chinese ambassador to Canada was only made about three days ago. So clearly, this is something that’s still happening.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, and frankly, it’s not an idle threat. How many days have the two Michael’s been in Chinese prison for ostensibly no other reason other than, as you describe it, hostage diplomacy?
Mr. Burton: Yes, it’s been over 670 days. So they’ll be coming up to their second anniversary on Human Rights Day, December 10th. We had no consular access from January until about 10 days ago, after our UN Ambassador made a particularly strong condemnation of the Chinese regime in the General Assembly—speaking really, very frankly, very sincerely, and very effectively.
And that got the Chinese to stop preventing consular access, which they are required to do both by bilateral treaty with Canada and by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1962. So from that point of view, their treatment of Canadians has been disgraceful. One assumes that if there was any basis for holding these men that by now we would have heard of it. And I think that it’s likely that the two Canadians are showing a great deal of fortitude in not giving in and making false confessions on the Chinese television, which is what we’ve seen with foreigners who have been broken by the Chinese regime through brutal imprisonment.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s surreal to me. On one hand, we’re sitting here, we’re talking about this push on one side to have a closer relationship with the Chinese regime. And on the other hand, these sorts of shakedowns, in this case, presumably were taken as a negotiating chip versus the arrest of the Huawei CFO—again, I guess, 600 odd days ago now. It’s astounding to me that this is a reality and that free nations aren’t frankly standing up to this. Canada’s economic relationship with China is much smaller than, say, Australia’s, and Australia has taken a much harder line. Certainly we can learn from that.
Mr. Burton: Well, I think so. And the other thing is that the rate of support for enhanced engagement with China among the Canadian public has gone down to about 15 percent. Meaning, that most people think that Canada should not be [expanding] our trade relationship with China because once you engage with China, you’re engaging with the whole regime, including those who are perpetrators of crimes against humanity as The Economist put it in their front page article this week.
So it becomes very hard for us to talk about establishing any kind of rapport with that regime, so long as they’re engaging in such outrageous violations of just the norms of decent human conduct. And you can’t trust what they say because they dissemble about everything, including the COVID-19, both domestically and internationally.
So I think that we really have to be looking at alternative markets and alternative ways to guarantee our security because China is just not a reliable and good partner to be engaging with, both in terms of morality and in terms of just the trust basis. Dealing with Huawei, aside from the fact that it can be used for espionage, do we really want to deal with the company that’s been complicit in putting in telecommunications installations that have led to the surveillance and persecution of important minority groups in China? Right now, in particular, the Uyghurs, but really everybody in China who’s been subject to this kind of repression. Do we want to work with Huawei when it’s been installing the same kind of equipment in countries all over the third world to support the rule of autocratic dictators who violate the human rights of their people? Do we want to work with the company that has an incentive program for its employees who steal competitors’ technology?
All of these things from a moral point of view suggests that Huawei is just not a good partner for us. And then there’s the whole espionage and security aspects. So when you deal with any company, not just Huawei, but any Chinese company, you’re getting the same issues. Canada is a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and I think that that’s a grouping … that could be quite helpful in diversifying our trade and building economies on the basis of free trade. And the Trans-Pacific Partnership excludes China because China does not qualify as a free trade economy based on fairness and reciprocity, which is really the basis for good and sustainable international trade relations.
Mr. Jekielek: Charles, and I know you’ve thought about this, so I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit here. What is the first policy recommendation that you would recommend to some of these smaller countries? Like, I’m saying compared to the US, where there’s this asymmetrical relationship, or Canada for that matter?
Mr. Burton: Well, I think in terms of the smaller countries in the world, I think that they have to look very carefully at offers by the Chinese regime of loans for infrastructure projects relating to the Belt and Road Initiative. This thing has proven to be disadvantageous to third world countries and the overall impact that seems to feed corruption and often, when states are unable to repay the Chinese loans, they’re required to make concessions in terms of ceding port facilities to the Chinese, which are then able to use them for military and strategic purposes.
So I would say that third world nations should say no to offers of Chinese money because I think that it’s becoming apparent that this overall is not serving their developmental interests. In terms of Canada, I think the first thing would be for us to look at the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act of Australia and try and figure out if that is what is inhibiting our government from responding to public opinion and just good sense in terms of protecting the Canadian security and sovereignty. So I think that would be a good place to start.
I think certainly, we don’t want to continue to transfer military technologies to agents of the Chinese state, and we need to strengthen our legislation about that. That is a crime and clarify what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable in terms of relationships between people who are engaging in classified research and the Chinese regime. And I think, in general, the idea that the Chinese companies can come up to the Arctic and buy up mines and put in infrastructure is probably a bad idea because the regime would likely use that to try and affect Canada’s sovereignty over critical Arctic elements.
There’s a huge number of areas that I’d like to see changes. We have a serious problem with drug addiction through Chinese fentanyl. The fentanyl in Canada comes from small factories in southern China, in Guangdong Province. The Chinese government should really start stemming that trade. And if they won’t, then I think Canada should say, “Well, we have to start inspecting all Chinese shipments into Canada very carefully to make sure that there’s no fentanyl in any envelopes in those shipping containers.” And that would have a considerable negative impact on China’s trade competitiveness if their shipments are more delayed than other countries’ selling into Canada.
There’s just a wide range of policy areas that I would recommend that our government undertake. All of them, I think, are reasonable and would be supported by right thinking Canadians, but up to now, the government of Canada is not adopting any of them, and the question is, why?
Mr. Jekielek: And finally, what about this harassment of Canadians or, frankly, by regime agents or on behalf of regime agents?
Mr. Burton: Well, this is an area where I’ve been working on this for quite some years with the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China because a lot of our Uyghur and Tibetan friends and Chinese democracy activist friends are subject to serious harassment by agents of the regime. When they call the local police, the local police tell them to call the federal police, our Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Royal Canadian Mounted Police tell them that they ought to get in touch with our intelligence agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Nobody actually does anything about this.
And so we have the situation of people having to move away from their homes into high rise apartment buildings just to keep away from this kind of menace. Canadian young Chinese, Hong Kong women who support democracy and freedom in Hong Kong are getting telephone conversations that not only menace their family, but threaten murder and rape. These kinds of things are just, they are completely unacceptable in Canada, and even the harassment of Chinese citizens in Canada is unacceptable under our bill of rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Anybody in Canada, regardless of their citizenship, is entitled to protection of their basic human rights, including their right of freedom of speech, assembly, and security of the person. In these areas, the Canadian government has fallen very far short of expectations. And there again, one is puzzled as to why the obvious measures that should be taken, which would be strengthening supervision of Chinese agents in Canada and the expulsion of Chinese diplomats who are active in areas of menacing and harassment of the Chinese community in Canada. All of these things just make good sense. But up to now, we haven’t seen any movement on it by the government of Canada.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, you do actually have an initiative, I guess, at least to safeguard the academics that would be subject to some of these types of shakedown operations—it’s the China Democracy Foundation, chinadem.org. I encourage people to check that out and basically learn more about the situation. I saw that you had, I’m just going to read the quote from one of the donors. He said, “It’s the least I can do; I’m New Zealand born Hong Kong raised – I’ve lost my city this year – I know what’s at stake; Ms Brady is a New Zealand Hero – Thank you all for fighting the good fight!” I suspect there’s a lot of people that share that sentiment.
Mr. Burton: That’s certainly wonderful to hear from them. We, I think aside from the financial support, I think the moral support of this cause is very much appreciated by Professor Brady and all of us. I think that we want to send a signal to Anne-Marie Brady that she’s not alone and has the support of good-hearted people all around the world.
Mr. Jekielek: Charles, please tell me how people interested in joining the letter can reach you?
Mr. Burton: Well, they’re most welcome to send their name, their affiliation, and their country to our email address, bradyacademicfreedom, all one word, firstname.lastname@example.org. And that will reach me and I’ll get you on the letter. And the more people that want to express their support for Professor Brady, the happier we all are. So far, we’ve got about 300 names, and I think probably see quite a few hundred more.
Mr. Jekielek: And are there any, unfortunately, are there any other academics that you’re setting your sights on that you need to support at this time?
Mr. Burton: Yes, I think anyone would know the obvious candidates, but certainly Adrian Zenz, who has been quite active in the Uyghur issue, maybe someone that we’ll have to be supporting in future. But who knows where the Chinese influence activities will strike next. And I think that, we hope that if we’re able to defeat this measure by the University of Canterbury against Professor Brady, that that will have a dampening effect on these elements engaging in further attempts to try and suppress the truth getting out to the world on Chinese influence and military activities in our countries.
Mr. Jekielek: Charles, one final question before we finish up. Do you think there’s hope in achieving some kind of compromise with the Chinese Communist Party, given all that you know?
Mr. Burton: I don’t see much hope of achieving compromise with the Chinese Communist Party, but I do think that there is hope that the Chinese Communist Party may not continue to be in power in China forever. That the Chinese people will demand a government that’s more based on the values of Chinese civilization and humanity.
We see a thriving democracy in Taiwan, which is an island where the population speaks Chinese and are genetically the same as people on the mainland. So I do see some hope in the future. But I don’t think that the Party itself is capable of significant reform. I think we’ll need to see some political change in China. Hopefully a change that will not incur violence, but will be a peaceful transition, as we’ve seen in so many countries. Look at Czechoslovakia or Poland where the people have stood up against authoritarian, autocratic, one-party rule and have made a successful transition to regimes which are consistent with modern international standards of governance, democracy, and freedom. So I’m looking forward to that day, and I hope it will happen while I’m still here on earth to see it.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Charles Burton, such a pleasure to have you on.
Mr. Burton: Thank you very much, Jan.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.