Tories announced a new motion calling on the federal government to take a strong stand against foreign states—including China—carrying out interference and intimidation activities in Canada.
The motion, known as M-55, was announced by Conservative MPs Garnett Genuis and Pierre Paul-Hus in a press conference Thursday. It calls on the federal government to take a strong stand against foreign states that interfere and threaten the safety of Canadians due to their faith or identity and expose human rights atrocities.
“New Canadians are raising the alarm about the growing efforts of foreign states to reach into the lives of new Canadians here on Canadian soil, to monitor and threaten them, and to pressure them into lending support to the strategic agenda of the foreign state or at least to try to get them to stop speaking out for justice and human rights,” Genuis said.
“This can involve threats to family members still back in their country of origin, and also direct threats of violence here in Canada.”
“This phenomenon does not just impact new Canadians. Efforts to monitor and intimidate Canadians, capture elites, and prevent the free exchange of ideas here in Canada, undermine the exercise of our basic rights and freedoms,” he added.
Chemi Lhamo, former president and CEO of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), was also present at the press conference. She said she received rape and death threats from agents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) when she ran for student election at SCSU, where her role was to unite “the diverse student body of the University of Toronto at Scarborough to advocate and advance student interests.”
“Before the results had even come out, my phone started going off with notifications with over 16,000 comments on my social media posts. I was targeted because of my Tibetan identity. The comments I received were harsh. They included rape threats, death threats, not just against me, but my whole family.” Lhamo said.
“Comments like ‘the bullet that will go through you is made in China,’ ‘If I see you, I’ll punch you.’ And there was even one that read ‘your mum is dead.’”
Lhamo said she continued to receive threats, degrading and dehumanising comments throughout her presidential term in SCSU, including being followed and stared at by students at her campus. They also took photos of people she spoke to.
Canadian Uighur activist Rukiye Turdush, another speaker in the conference, also shared about the threats she faced when she was invited by McMaster University’s Muslim Students’ Association to talk about the ongoing genocide in East Turkestan on Feb. 11, 2019.
“During my speech, a few Chinese students tried to disturb me, and one of them filmed the whole presentation and actually verbally assaulted me with foul language during the discussion period,” Turdush said.
“Next day, I received from someone, leaked screenshots—evidence of those Chinese students’ WeChat group app communications. In posts on the app, they have discussed how to disturb my speech and to send the recorded video to the Chinese Consulate. Someone in the group, could be the Chinese diplomat, was upset why there are only five Chinese students participated [in] the event despite the Chinese students in McMaster University were informed about the speech in advance.”
“Another message in that post said ‘find everything about her son,’ so they can look for my son to check on me,” Turdush added.
Turdush said it was then that she realised the CCP’s control was not limited to just East Turkestan where she came from, but “extended to everywhere.”
The interference and intimidation tactics used by the CCP are not unfamiliar to Alliance Canada Hong Kong (ACHK), an advocacy group that documented the pro-Hong Kong democracy rallies held in Canada last August.
In its report, titled National Security and Chinese State Influence (pdf), the ACHK said the organizers and participants of the “Global Solidarity with Hong Kong” and “Stand with Hong Kong’s” Power to the People rally were met with threats, intimidation, and relentless harassment from pro-CCP organizations and individuals.
One example is pro-Beijing supporters using surveillance equipment to capture images of their opponents at the rallies—similar to surveillance tactics employed by CCP agents who try to capture images to later identify them using facial recognition processes. They then post the photos online or dox Hong Kong supporters, the report wrote.
According to a report released last year from Amnesty International, the harassment of China human rights defenders in Canada has been ramping up in recent years.
The main targets for harassment are members of five groups or entities that the CCP singles out the most for repression and persecution: Taiwanese, Tibetans, Uighurs Muslims, Falun Gong adherents, and pro-democracy movements, said the report.
Also, according to Clive Hamilton, author of the bestselling book “Silent Invasion,” the CCP has built a complex network of agencies tasked with exerting influence abroad, often carried out through its United Front Work Department.
The United Front has far-reaching tentacles that aim to target every aspect of society, from business and cultural organizations, to educational institutions and politics. It works to influence the choices, direction, and loyalties of its targets by overcoming negative perceptions and promoting favourable perceptions of CCP rule in China.
Hamilton’s work falls in line with Lhamo’s testimony, as she said some universities still have strong ties with Confucius Institutes (CI), and students there who speak up about human rights abuses happening in Tibet, East Turkestan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are bullied.
CIs are run by an agency of the Chinese regime headquartered in Beijing. They are branded as educational and cultural programs, but have been cited by intelligence agencies as being a part of the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda tools to exert influence abroad and control activities to Beijing’s liking on campus.
“Canadian universities are censoring themselves and their students within the academic spaces because of the influence and power that the Chinese government has on the university,” Lhamo said, adding that “even anonymous Chinese students have written to their student unions saying that they are terrified by the presence of organization like CSSA [Chinese Student and Scholars Association] recording campus activities to the Chinese government.”
The motion also urges the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal leaders to help them combat foreign state interference in their areas of jurisdiction, and create new measures to protect and support the victims of such nature.
“If a Canadian faces foreign-backed threats and intimidation, who do they go to? Many have reported getting the runaround. The Foreign Affairs Minister has recently told Canadians in this situation to simply call their local police. But this is not merely a police matter. This is a national security matter,” Genuis said.
“The intentional coordinated strategic exercise of power by foreign states here in Canada is not something that local police departments are ideally placed to respond to alone.”
He said the federal government must take the lead and work with “law enforcement agencies, other levels of government, and civil society to identify and root out this kind of intimidation and violence.”