Clear Distinction Between CCP and Chinese People Needed in Combating Beijing’s Foreign Interference: Report

Clear Distinction Between CCP and Chinese People Needed in Combating Beijing’s Foreign Interference: Report
The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa in a file photo. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Andrew Chen

With news of the Chinese Communist Party’s rampant targeting of the Chinese diaspora and dissidents of the regime in Canada coming to the fore in recent months, a new report from a House of Commons committee urges the government to push back against such threats and to find ways to protect Canadians from arbitrary detention by malign regimes.

The report, published by the Special Committee on the Canada–People’s Republic of China Relationship (CACN), compiles testimonies from 50 witnesses who have appeared at the committee over two parliamentary sessions. Many witnesses have offered stories and personal experiences of intimidation and harassment by the Chinese regime.
The report noted that CACN’s national security study on the issue first began during China’s arbitrary detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were held in Chinese prison for over 1,000 days before being released in September 2021. However, the report also draws attention to other cases where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has arbitrarily detained Canadians, or people with links to Canada.
Citing Alex Neve, senior fellow at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, the report notes the case of Sun Qian, a Falun Gong practitioner who has been imprisoned since 2017 and was sentenced to eight more years in 2020. Sun “supposedly voluntarily” renounced her Canadian citizenship and has not been heard from for more than two years, Neve told CACN on Oct. 25, 2022.
Sun is suspected of giving a coerced confession under prolonged torture while in police custody.
Sun Qian, a Falun Dafa adherent who has been illegally detained in China since February 2017, in an undated photo. (The Epoch Times/Handout)
Sun Qian, a Falun Dafa adherent who has been illegally detained in China since February 2017, in an undated photo. (The Epoch Times/Handout)

Neve, the former secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, also raised concerns about Huseyin Celil, a Uyghur Canadian and human rights activist who has been detained for more than 16 years and whose family in Burlington, Ontario, has heard no news of him for five years.

As of 2019, there were approximately 120 Canadians in custody in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the report said, citing a 2019 briefing from Marta Morgan, then-deputy minister of Global Affairs Canada.

Distinguishing the CCP From Chinese People

The CACN report came as increasing evidence and media reports in recent months exposed the CCP’s foreign interference and infiltration operations in Canada, which prompted Ottawa to expel a Chinese diplomat over threatening Conservative MP Michael Chong’s family in Hong Kong. Facing mounting pressure, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has pledged to introduce a foreign agent registry “as soon as possible.”

While several witnesses have warned the committee that the CCP seeks to “mobilize and weaponize” Chinese Canadians through influence, surveillance, and intimidation,“ the report highlighted the need to ”distinguish between the people of China and the Chinese state” and the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Lynette Ong, associate professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, highlighted the need to have more understanding of the CCP’s tools of interference, such as the United Front Works Department, which is described as the regime’s “primary foreign interference tool” by Public Safety Canada.

Meanwhile, Ong also cautioned about conflating the Chinese people with the CCP.

“I think it is also important to recognize that the diasporas are not passive or apolitical agents of their home governments. In general, the diasporas have agencies and incentives of their own,” Ong told CACN in May 2021.

“In Canada’s context, it is also crucial to recognize that the Chinese diaspora is far from being a homogeneous community, and their allegiance to the Chinese government, or the CCP, should not be automatically assumed.”

To address these challenging issues, the committee made several key recommendations.

The report calls on Global Affairs Canada to designate an individual as a dedicated advocate for Canadians arbitrarily detained abroad. This advocate would work with countries and multilateral organizations to promote the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in state-to-state relations to more jurisdictions. Additionally, the advocate would assist with consular affairs related to Canadians facing arbitrary detention and explore measures to protect Canadians from this practice, particularly in state-to-state relations.

Additionally, the report recommends enacting initiatives to counter misinformation and disinformation disseminated by actors associated with the CCP and targeted Chinese diaspora communities in Canada, including the funding of projects through the Digital Citizen Initiative.

Justina Wheale contributed to this report.