A Toronto Chinese-Canadian group that recently received over $160,000 in federal funding has been working as communist China’s mouthpiece, denouncing a parliamentary motion against Beijing’s abuse of Uyghur minorities in Xinjiang.
The National Post first reported the statement released last week by the Council of Newcomer Organizations (CONCO), which condemned a House of Commons motion passed unanimously last month that designates the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslims as a genocide.
In its Chinese-language statement, CONCO said the motion was the result of MPs’ “ignorance and prejudice” toward China and that it would cause “far-reaching” damage on the two countries’ relations.
In response, Conservative MP Michael Chong, who sponsored the Uyghur-genocide motion, said that while federally funded groups are free to criticize anyone they want, the CONCO case shows how the Liberal government is “willfully naïve” about China’s influence.
“It’s clear from the evidence that the leadership of this group is acting as proxies for Beijing’s consulates and missions here in Canada,” Chong told the National Post on Monday. “We should not be funding groups acting as a mouthpiece for Beijing.”
According to the National Post, CONCO’s latest statement is at least the second time in the past two years that the organization has openly echoed a political message from Beijing.
In August 2019, CONCO published an advertisement that vehemently criticized the ongoing pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, alleging that protesters were colluding with foreign powers.
In March 2020, the group, which represents 29 Chinese-Canadian associations, received a federal grant of $25,000 from the Employment and Social Development Canada for an elder-abuse program.
Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, told the National Post that he finds situation “kind of shocking,” adding that no Canadian groups fighting for human rights in China has received any financial support from the Liberal government.
“They (CONCO) have freedom to express their opinion, whether they support the talking points of the Communist Party or not. The problem is they cannot do that with my tax money. Why should I support with my tax dollars their propaganda?” Tohti said.
In 2019, CONCO’s then-president Zhu Jiang attended the 70th anniversary celebrations for the founding of the People’s Republic of China. According to a report by Super Life News, Jiang was invited by Beijing’s Toronto consulate and the Xinjiang branch of the United Front Work Department, which is a branch of the CCP tasked with expending Chinese influence worldwide.
One of CONCO’s major supporters is Hong Wei “Winnie” Liao, also known as Liao Zi Wei, a prominent Toronto-area businesswoman with connections to both Canadian politicians and Chinese diplomats. Liao’s company Respon International Group was the title sponsor of the council’s annual Chinese New Year festival in 2019. Liao’s daughter and her boyfriend were recently charged with the murder of a man in Hamilton, Ontario.
Independent investigations by human rights organizations have confirmed that the CCP is proactively campaigning massive genocide of Uyghur Muslims and adherents of the spiritual practice of Falun Gong. Reports revealed that 1 to 2 million Uyghurs, who are arbitrarily detained in re-education camps, long with Falun Gong practitioners, have been subjected to systematic rape, physical abuses, and forced sterilization.