Second Diaspora Group Calls for Boycott of Foreign Interference Inquiry Over Security Concerns

The inquiry is criticized as a ‘huge fishing net,’ collecting intelligence that is at risk of leaks due to the inclusion of individuals accused of ties to China
Second Diaspora Group Calls for Boycott of Foreign Interference Inquiry Over Security Concerns
Commissioner Justice Marie-Josee Hogue speaks at the Public Inquiry Into Foreign Interference in Federal Election Processes and Democratic Institutions, in Ottawa on Feb. 2, 2024. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)
Andrew Chen
2/20/2024
Updated:
2/21/2024
0:00

A second diaspora group is urging a boycott of the public inquiry into foreign interference due to national security concerns, particularly regarding the inclusion of individuals accused of ties to alleged Chinese interference in the last two federal elections.

Canadian Friends of Hong Kong (CFHK), in a Feb. 20 statement posted on X, said it “has not and will not participate” in the inquiry and expressed “grave concerns regarding the objectivity and the security integrity” of the inquiry. Specifically, CFHK pointed to Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue’s decision to include former Liberal MP Han Dong, Senator Yuan Pau Woo, and Markham, Ont., deputy mayor Michael Chan, referring to them as “individuals suspected to have strong ties to the Chinese Consulates, and their proxies.”
Ms. Hogue granted Mr. Dong and Mr. Chan full standing at the inquiry, enabling them to question witnesses and access certain non-public documents. Mr. Woo was given intervener standing, allowing him the right to access copies of exhibits entered into evidence during the public hearings and to make oral or written submissions.

“This Inquiry functions like a huge fishing net—snaring up all kinds of foreign interference information and from all sources. A person who has full standing has the right to cross-examine witnesses and to access documentary evidence not admitted as exhibits,” CFHK said.

“Even if documents are heavily redacted, just the titles of the documents, if seen by our adversaries, will give them a target as they will know what to look for.”

CFHK’s boycott followed another diaspora group’s withdrawal from the inquiry last month. The Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project (URAP) announced its decision to withdraw on Jan. 31, citing security concerns related to the inclusion of the three politicians.
In a decision released on Dec. 22, 2023, Ms. Hogue acknowledged URAP’s claim that some witnesses voiced “concerns about being questioned by Mr. Dong and Mr. Chan.” However, she upheld her decision earlier that month to involve the politicians, leading the rights group to ultimately withdraw from the inquiry, which commenced on Jan. 29.
The Epoch Times reached out to Ms. Hogue for comment on the growing security concerns but didn’t immediately hear back.

Allegations

The three politicians have all denied any wrongdoing while facing accusations of inappropriate ties to Beijing.
In March 2023, a Global News report citing anonymous national security sources accused Mr. Dong of having close ties with China’s former consul general in Toronto, Han Tao. The news outlet also alleged that Mr. Dong participated in a foreign interference network backed by Beijing. Mr. Dong subsequently resigned from the Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent MP while rejecting the allegations. In April 2023, he launched a libel suit against Global News.
Mr. Chan faces allegations of inappropriate associations with Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei, formerly stationed at the Chinese Consulate in Toronto. Mr. Zhao was expelled from Canada in May 2023 amid accusations of involvement in targeting Conservative MP Michael Chong for criticizing Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China. Mr. Chan has denied any connections to the Chinese official.

Mr. Dong and Mr. Chan didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment from The Epoch Times.

Mr. Woo, who has sparked concerns among the Chinese diaspora for remarks and actions perceived as favourable to Beijing, has also rejected the allegations against him. In a previous statement to The Epoch Times, Mr. Woo refuted URAP’s allegations, saying they are “without any evidence” and could potentially “lead to a witch hunt.”

To reinforce its call for boycotting the public inquiry, CFHK provided supporting comments from a number of experts in various subject areas including China, human rights, intelligence, national security, and political science.

In particular, the CFHK statement cited a Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) article in which experts warned that the foreign interference inquiry could “backfire” on Canada’s national security.

“Information gathered by the Commission will almost certainly reveal how Canadian activists and security experts monitor foreign infiltration and influence. It could expose the methodology used, contacts and information sources, and the strategic approach and rationale of each expert or analyst,” the MLI article stated. “This is powerful knowledge; it is not the type of information that should be available to the perpetrators of foreign interference.”

The article continued: “By granting standing to individuals with alleged ties to the Chinese embassy, we are potentially offering incredible insight to our adversaries, enabling them to design and execute more effective interference operations and targeted counter actions against the Canadians standing up for our national sovereignty.”