Dissidents of the Chinese regime are subject to coercion even in Canada, as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) exploits foreign institutions to infiltrate democratic societies and terrorize the Chinese diaspora, victims said on Monday.
Cherie Wong, executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong (ACHK), told the House of Commons special committee on Canada-China Relations that the CCP has been “exporting their authoritarianism overseas” through various political and economic sectors.
However, she said very few countries have realized the dangers posed by the CCP’s global expansionist agenda.
“Threats, censorship, [and] intimidation will continue as long as companies, nonprofits, academia, politicians, media, and other institutions with vested interests are fearful of angering Beijing and doing their bidding,” Wong said.
“We need a whole of government approach on how Canada engages with foreign authoritarian powers like China, we need to invest in the proper tools, infrastructures, and resources to protect Canadians and our national interests,” she added.
An ACHK report (pdf), published in May, sets out seven key tactics that the CCP and its affiliates deploy to control foreign countries, including political influence, elite capture, surveillance and intimidation, information and narrative discursion, academic influence and intellectual property vulnerabilities, national security, and the United Front Work Department.
In response to those threats, the report recommended Canada create a foreign influence transparency scheme to establish a public registry of individuals, organizations, and representatives who are acting on behalf of foreign states and their affiliates in the country. In addition, the authors of the report recommend a public commission with investigative and enforcement powers that’s capable of coordinating the different levels of government, institutions, public agencies, and the Canadian general public be installed to complement the transparency scheme.
As a victim of the CCP’s harassment and intimidation, Wong emphasized the need to protect the Chinese diaspora in Canada. She said that based on her experience, the regime’s harassment has been carefully crafted so that despite the “very real death threats against dissidents,” police can do nothing to protect victims.
“Dissidents are not safe, not in their own homes, not in civil societies, not at work, and not in Canada,” Wong said.
Chinese Students Under CCP’s Long-Arm Tactics
Chemi Lhamo, a Tibetan descent, said the CCP was behind the attempts to silence her when she ran for campus president at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus Student’s Union in 2019. Because of her ethnicity, Lhamo received tens of thousands of death and rape threats made against her and her family each day during her election, she said.
Lhamo warned that the CCP’s propaganda is insidiously disguised behind progressive movements, “conflating anti-CCP sentiments to be part of the rise of anti-Asian hatred” in recent months, as people struggle with the global COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the CCP virus which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Even the Chinese international students themselves, while living in the open and liberal Canadian society, are often the target of CCP manipulation.
“The long arm tactics of the CCP is also affecting Chinese international students, who are paying four to five times more for an education, but are having to become incognito spies for the [Chinese] embassy or get bullied to follow party lines and protests,” Lhamo said.
In February 2019, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at the McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, condemned an on-campus event on Beijing’s human rights abuses against Uyghurs and ethnic Muslims. Rukiye Turdush, research director at Uyghur Research Institute, who spoke at the event, was disrupted and verbally assaulted by those she identified as “Chinese students.”
Turdush later obtained screenshots of those students’ WeChat group conversations, showing that they had been taking orders from and reporting to the Chinese consulate in Canada.
“They have very close contact, they report everything to the Chinese embassy, and the Chinese Embassy instructed them in advance the many things [to do],” Turdush said. “This is not the organized, patriotic Chinese students … there is a Chinese embassy’s hand in this event.”
Turdush said she was also worried about her son being targeted after the McMaster incident, but she said there is little she could do as an individual.
“This is not the civil issue; this is not the issue between me and the International Chinese students. This is China’s influence to Canada, so government should deal with it,” she said.
“I am giving this testimony here today, not only because of my personal safety or other human rights activists’ safety, but most importantly, it’s because of [the] tremendous danger that China posing to the democratic world order and human rights, Canadian sovereignty. It is about the future of our kids.”