Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Canada, which will take place this week, has spurred efforts by pro-Beijing groups to ensure the high ranking Communist Party official gets a boisterous welcome in Ottawa and Montreal.
If the welcome follows the pattern established in previous visits, Chinese groups will be mobilized and financially supported by the Chinese Embassy in an effort to bolster the image of the Beijing regime and create the impression that Chinese Canadians generally support its policies and positions.
A recording of a Chinese diplomat obtained by Epoch Times in 2010 when then-Chinese leader Hu Jintao visited Canada revealed Chinese Embassy officials funding and organizing demonstrations meant to welcome the Chinese leader.
The notice given to the groups involved in the current welcome effort mimic patterns established in other visits where consulates mobilized welcome groups. According to a note posted on a Chinese-language Canadian website ahead of Li’s visit, “the Chinese community,” among them the Toronto-based Beijing Association of Canada, were organizing groups to welcome “the delegation from the motherland.”
The notice suggests knowledge of a detailed itinerary. No such itinerary has been made public by the Canadian government.
Another note posted on Chinese social media WeChat by a Montreal Chinese group organizer said: “This is our townsmen association’s notice: To guarantee Premier Li Keqiang’s friendly visit to Canada is a complete success, the Chinese Consulate has assigned the task to our townsmen association … to rally on Sept 23 at the Le Centre Sheraton Montreal to prevent a small number of illegal elements from getting near the hotel where the premier will stay.”
The time indicated in the note includes a day shift from 8:30-3:00 p.m. and a night shift from 10:00 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. the next morning. The note said everyone participating would be given a T-shirt and lunch.
The “illegal elements” likely refers to protesters from groups repressed in China, including democracy advocates, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Falun Gong practitioners.
In Ottawa, the activity scheduled on the Chinese website includes welcoming the visiting officials at the Westin Hotel, Parliament Hill, and the Canadian Museum of History.
Construction is already underway at the Westin Hotel to erect barriers in front of the entrance. When Chinese leader Hu was staying at the Westin in 2010, a similar wooden barrier was built to block the entrance from view. Windows were covered as well.
‘A very high requirement’
Li’s visit was officially announced in mid-September, but a July 3 article by the Chinese-language publication Ming Pao indicates that Toronto Chinese Consulate officials have been hinting to Chinese groups to be prepared for Li’s visit in September.
The report cites an unnamed Chinese community leader saying that whenever Chinese officials visit Canada, Chinese groups usually organize big tour buses to bring people from different cities to join forces with others in Ottawa to welcome the officials at Parliament Hill.
Before Hu’s 2010 visit, Epoch Times obtained a recording of a speech given by Liu Shaohua, the first secretary of the education section at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, to a crowd of 40-50 Chinese students receiving Chinese state scholarships to study in Canada. Those students, Liu emphasized, had to attend the welcome events for Hu.
Liu said that the Chinese Embassy was covering the costs of hotels, food, travel, and clothing for all the people coming to welcome Hu, bringing the cost to hundreds of thousands of dollars. This sum, according to Liu, was “little money” in light of the “political struggle” waged by the Chinese regime to overshadow human-rights advocates who planned to protest during Hu’s visit.
“Originally, we did not expect the situation to be so complex,” Liu told the crowd. However, he continued, “Falun Gong, Tibetan separatists, Uyghur separatists, democracy people have already moved on to Parliament Hill. …This is a battle that relates to defending the reputation of our motherland. The Embassy and authorities inside China have a very high requirement.”
According to Liu, the previous time Hu visited Canada in 2005 and was met with protestors, officials in China were furious. Liu complained that during that visit, Canadian authorities did not cooperate with Chinese demands regarding the protesters, but this time he said there were some limited guarantees, although “some parts cannot be guaranteed because this country is particular about so-called freedom.”
The Beijing Association of Canada, one of the groups organizing the current welcome effort, has close ties to the Chinese Communist Party, according to Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior manager with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
In an address to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) in 2014 when the board was considering whether to sever ties with the Beijing-backed Confucius Institute after a public outcry against an official partnership, Juneau-Katsuya presented an internal email leaked from the Beijing Association which stated they were in urgent need of people to go to the TDSB and rally in support of the Confucius Institute. The association offered to pay a subsidy for transportation and parking for those who attended.
Numerous attempts to contact the Beijing Association for an interview for this article were unsuccessful.
Li Keqiang will begin his Canadian visit on Sept. 21 in Ottawa, where he will meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He will then visit Montreal, where he will meet with members of the business community as well as the Chinese-Canadian community.
He will travel to Cuba after concluding his Canada trip on Sept. 24.
Additional reporting by Limin Zhou in Ottawa