The Conservatives called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to retract his accusation of “anti-Asian racism” after Conservative MPs questioned him about the collaboration of Chinese military-linked scientists with scientists at a high-security Canadian laboratory.
Conservative Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Chong says (pdf) conflating “legitimate criticism of China’s government with Anti-Asian racism” is falling into a propaganda trap set up by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“Prime Minister Trudeau played right into that propaganda when he … implied that questions about China’s threats to Canada were driving anti-Asian racism,” Chong told The Epoch Times.
During a House of Commons session on May 26, several Conservative MPs asked the prime minister questions related to scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg collaborating with researchers tied to the Chinese military.
NML, Canada’s only Level 4 lab, has come under scrutiny after scientists Xiangguo Qiu and Keding Cheng and several Chinese students were escorted out of the lab in 2019 amidst a police investigation. The lab has sent samples of deadly Ebola and Henipah viruses to China, and Qiu travelled several times in official capacity to the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, which is part of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The government hasn’t released the reason for expelling the scientists from the lab, citing confidentiality and privacy obligations.
The Globe and Mail reported that one of the Chinese military researchers collaborating with NML researchers worked at the NML for a period of time.
“We have a problem in this country when operatives who are part of the Communist China regime are allowed into our very sensitive labs here in Canada, specifically in Winnipeg,” Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen said in the House of Commons on May 26. “Will the Prime Minister commit today to ending research co-operation with the Chinese communist military?”
Trudeau said he couldn’t disclose details about the issue due to confidentiality and privacy reasons. In a follow-up, he implied that the Tory MP’s questioning veered into “anti-Asian racism.”
“The rise in anti-Asian racism we have been seeing over the past number of months should be of concern to everyone. I would recommend that the members of the Conservative Party, in their zeal to make personal attacks, not start to push too far into intolerance towards Canadians of diverse origins,” he said.
He made similar comments about “anti-Asian racism” when asked questions about the issue by Conservative MPs Pierre Paul-Hus and Michael Barrett.
In response, Chong, along with Kenny Chiu, the Conservative shadow minister for diversity, inclusion, and youth, issued a statement on May 27 asking for Trudeau to retract his comments.
“When Prime Minister Trudeau conflates criticism of China’s government with anti-Asian racism, he plays into the propaganda efforts of China’s communist leadership. Beijing’s goal is to conflate legitimate criticism of China’s government with intolerance towards anyone of Chinese heritage,” the statement reads.
“This is the sort of rhetoric that Canadians have come to expect from China’s communist leadership.”
As an example of how Beijing paints criticism of its conduct as racism, the statement references comments made by China’s ambassador to Canada in 2019 where he called Canada and its Western allies white supremacists for asking for the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. The two Canadians were arrested in China shortly after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in 2018, and still remain imprisoned.
Chong told The Epoch Times he has noticed there is an increased awareness that criticism of the Chinese communist regime has no bearing on the people of China or people of Asian descent, many of whom have fled persecution of the regime themselves.
“It is not a criticism of China that is the cause of anti-Asian racism. In fact, many of the people critical of China are of Asian descent themselves, and are people who have fled China’s repression to seek refuge in Canada,” he said.
Chong said the CCP has been able to influence the dialogue when it comes to criticism of the regime by use of propaganda, something that authoritarian systems often resort to.
“Authoritarian systems of government by their very nature can use propaganda that democracies can’t,” he said. “Democracies are based on the fundamental principles of human rights and the rule of law that allow us to talk about these issues, to raise criticisms. And eventually, we’ll prevail, and I think history demonstrates that.”