Vancouver — It isn’t racist to raise concerns about foreign interference in Canadian elections, say Chinese community leaders, adding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should investigate concerns openly.
When Trudeau said recent media attention to foreign interference in elections was racist, he was using a deflection technique also employed by the Chinese Communist Party (CPP), said Bill Chu of the Chinese-Canadian Concerned Group on the Chinese Communist Party’s Human Rights Violations.
“He should be more concerned about national security, he should be more concerned about sovereignty,” Chu said.
Chu, a longtime anti-racism advocate in British Columbia, said the comments also ultimately conflate Chinese people with the CPP, a tactic China’s government often uses to try to silence criticism by trying to spin it into an instance of racism.
On Monday, after more than a week of political pressure over explosive news reports about China’s attempts to influence Canadian elections, Trudeau said the most recent attention on Toronto Liberal MP, Han Dong, stems from racism.
“One of the things we’ve seen unfortunately over the past years is a rise in anti-Asian racism linked to the pandemic, and concerns being arisen around people’s loyalties,” Trudeau said Monday in Mississauga.
“I want to make everyone understand fully: Han Dong is an outstanding member of our team, and suggestions that he is somehow not loyal to Canada should not be entertained.”
Last week, Global News reported Dong was a “witting affiliate” in Beijing’s attempts to help him become the Liberal candidate and run for the party in North York.
The report cited unnamed sources who said that Canada’s spy agency — the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) — started tracking Dong in 2019. Officials also suggested to Trudeau’s office that the Liberals should drop Han as a candidate due to the concerns.
Trudeau has said CSIS cannot direct political parties on what candidates they can run in elections.
“Instead of allowing the CSIS input to stand he’s actually allowing the input of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to stand.
“The PRC has been using the racism card for the longest time,” Chu said.
Meanwhile, Fenella Sung of Canadian Friends of Hong Kong said she doesn’t think the news stories come from racism.
“I would encourage people to no longer pull the racist card out every time those kind of legitimate questions are asked about our politicians,” Sung said. “You need to look at the facts.”
Sung said Chinese Canadians are more vulnerable to infiltration by CCP officials because of the shared language, culture and communities, making it more important for Ottawa to address the issue head-on rather than allow a cloud of suspicion to hang over them.
She said the government is throwing Chinese Canadians under the bus by trying to subdue the conversation with allegations of racism when it should be getting everything out in the open.
A full independent inquiry with subpoena power to investigate the allegations is in order, adding such an inquiry would be beneficial to Canada’s Chinese communities, Sung said.
Audrey Champoux, press secretary for the office of the Minister of Public Safety, said in a statement the federal government is “soberly aware of incidents in which hostile foreign actors have attempted to monitor, intimidate or threaten Canadians and those living here.”
It said it uses all tools to respond to such threats.
Former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said Trudeau’s reaction to the unfolding concerns suggests he’s “getting desperate” and the racism allegations would be welcomed by the Chinese embassy as it echoes their own lines of deflection.
Saint-Jacques said Canada is risking its international partnerships by not acting fast and taking the allegations seriously.
“Once your security services tell you ‘watch out this candidate has close links with the Chinese government,’ and probably that comes with some details to buttress the allegations, then you have to take this seriously,” he said.
With a file from Alex Ballingall