The Canadian government and the Communist Party of China (CPC) are at loggerheads over the latter’s alleged interference in the political affairs and electoral practices of the former.
The growing tension between the two countries became apparent during an ‘unpleasant’ encounter between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the recently concluded G-20 summit.
“If you are sincere, we should communicate with each other in a respectful manner. Otherwise, it will be hard to say what the result will be,” Xi reprimanded Trudeau for allegedly leaking information to the media about their meeting that took place on November 15 this year.
Much to the disdain of the Chinese Premier, Trudeau defended, “In Canada, we believe in free and open and frank dialogue and that is what we will continue to have…”
Diplomatic relations between China and Canada have been going through a rough patch since 2018. Following the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou by Canadian authorities, the Chinese government held Canadian diplomats Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig hostage over ‘espionage charges.’
In a major blow to bilateral ties, Canada shelved its ambitious ‘free-trade agreement’ with China in September 2020. The then Foreign Minister, François-Philippe Champagne, had justified the move by citing the Communist nation’s coercive diplomacy.
Canada abandons free-trade talks with China in shift for Trudeau governmenthttps://t.co/NQkiSy5dd3— National Newswatch (@natnewswatch) September 18, 2020
“The China of 2020 is not the China of 2016. All the initiatives and the policies that had been put in place at the time – all that need to be reviewed. We’re looking at all of them with the lens of China of 2020,” he had said.
In April last year, Canada issued a strong statement condemning the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong by China and further ruffled the feathers of the Chinese Communist Party.
While the safe return of the two Michaels to Canada provided some much-needed respite in September 2021, things went downhill again over allegations of election interference.
China allegedly interfered in Canadian elections
On November 7, 2022, Canadian media outlet Global News published an article alleging that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had briefed Justin Trudeau about covert funding to 11 federal candidates in the 2019 elections.
“The Chinese Communist Party…is using all elements of state power to carry out activities that are a direct threat to our national security and sovereignty,” CSIS told Global News.
The news outlet further informed that the candidates who received funding from CCP belonged to both the ruling Liberal party and the Opposition Conservative Party.
Investigative work by Global News— Natasha Fatah (@NatashaFatah) November 7, 2022
Canadian intelligence warned PM Trudeau that China covertly funded 2019 election candidates: Sources https://t.co/HJ1BIr74Xm
Earlier in 2011, a Conservative MP named Bob Dechert came under the scanner over his relationship with a Xinhua News reporter, Shi Rong. A former Chinese spy Li Fengzhi informed that the “act of striking up a relationship with an elected official fits the modus operandi of Chinese spies”.
It is also believed that the interference of the Chinese deep State in the federal elections of 2021 led to the defeat of the Conservative camp. An analysis by Rapid Response Mechanism Canada found that CCP supporters floated conspiracy theories that Canada will cut all ties to China if Conservatives are elected to power.
In this way, it deterred several Canadians from voting for the party. Moreover, Conservative candidate Kenny Chiu, who had been critical of China’s policies and proposed a Foreign Influence Registry Act (to publicly identify those acting on foreign interests), became the target of a disinformation campaign.
CCP bots created a narrative on Chinese social media platforms, namely, Weibo and WeChat, that Chiu is supposedly against China. This cost him his MP seat as half of the electorates in his constituency comprised Chinese Canadians.
After losing to Liberal Parm Bains by almost 3,000 votes, his defeat has 'raised the question of whether proxies for the People’s Republic government managed to influence the election,' writes @tomblackwellNP https://t.co/54RWSBpkyX— The Vancouver Sun (@VancouverSun) September 23, 2021
According to The Diplomat, the ‘China factor’ contributed to the defeat of the Conservative party. “While the three major political parties mentioned standing up against authoritarianism and China in their campaign platforms, the Conservatives had more proposals against China,” it reported.
“Those messages did not work well among suburban voters, particularly among voters of Chinese descent,” the news outlet added while highlighting plans of Conservative leader Erin O’Toole to sanction Chinese President, the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Party Congress among many others.
This led to the loss of Conservatives in the Richmond Centre and Markham Unionville electoral districts, where people of Chinese descent constitute 60% of the population.
Espionage, Chinese police stations and Canada’s fightback
China has also been using traditional tactics such as espionage to advance its interests in Canada. Earlier this month, the federal police booked an electric vehicle battery researcher named Yuesheng Wang (35) for sending trade secrets of Hydro-Québec to China.
Charges have been framed against him for espionage under the Security of Information Act. Our detection and intervention mechanisms allowed our investigators to bring this matter to the attention of the RCMP, with whom we have worked closely ever since,” said Senior Director (Hydro-Quebec) Dominic Roy.
A former employee of Quebec's electricity utility charged with economic espionage for the benefit of China denied he was a flight risk and wants to stay in Canada to fight the charges. https://t.co/TZiWnRFLj0— CBC News (@CBCNews) November 25, 2022
According to a report by Safeguard Defenders, Chinese police stations are operating in three locations across Canada. This includes a private residence in Markham, a convenience store in Scarborough, and the address of the Canada Toronto Fuqing Business Association.
China’s official response is that the stations are set up to help ex-pats renew their IDs or driving licences. The stations are reportedly covert hubs for China’s “involuntary return” program, which forces Chinese ex-pats to return home for punishment if they are found to have violated Chinese law while abroad.
China’s objective behind operating such illegal police stations is to suppress anti-China sentiments across the world, to spread communist ideology, ensure the Chinese ex-pats who violated Chinese law abroad and interfere in the governance and democratic processes of other countries.
Recently, the Canadian police have also launched a probe into the matter. “Our aim is to prevent intimidation, threats and harassment as well as any form of harm initiated on behalf of a foreign entity being applied to any community in Canada,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) stated.
Are we just another Chinese province under Trudeau? How is this possible?— Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) September 28, 2022
“China is extending the grip of its Orwellian police state into this country, with seemingly no worry about being confronted by our own national security agencies.”https://t.co/R1gyIya14a
In November this year, Canadian Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne directed 3 Chinese companies to sell their stakes in the critical mineral sector of Canada.
The companies included Sinomine (Hong Kong) Rare Metals Resources Co Ltd, Chengze Lithium International Ltd and Zangge Mining Investment (Chengdu) Co Ltd.
“While Canada continues to welcome foreign direct investment, we will act decisively when investments threaten our national security and our critical minerals supply chains, both at home and abroad,” he stated. For many, the Canadian government’s action against China is too little and too late.
This article was originally published in Opindia on November 28, 2022.