Chinese Canadian activists are the subject of a new report. Find out how it plans to protect them from Chinese government intimidation and harassment.
I’ve never been to China. Still, I feel like I know something about its culture because I have quite a few friends from there. That’s how it is in Canada.
Canada is home to people from just about every country in the world. We have over a million Canadians of Chinese origin living here and contributing to our culture along with other Asian Canadians.
Most new Canadians still keep a close eye on what’s going on in their country of origin. Chinese Canadians are no different.
Duty to Monitor and Report on Human Rights Abuses
Many people from China ended up immigrating to Canada because they were unhappy with human rights at home. Having escaped from China’s brutality, Chinese Canadian activists feel a duty to monitor and report on human rights abuses in their home country.
We’ve all heard about “the long arm of the law.”. China’s arm is even longer. It can reach right into the freedom of expression of Chinese Canadian activists.
That’s why the Canadian Coalition for Human Rights in China has issued a special report. It’s called Harassment & Intimidation of Individuals in Canada Working on China-related Human Rights Concerns.
Canadian Government Doesn’t Do Much About Their Rights
The main point of the report is that the Canadian government doesn’t do enough to protect the rights of Chinese Canadian activists. This lack of support enables China to act without worrying about retaliation.
The coalition reports that Chinese Canadian activists all over Canada put up with threats, intimidation and harassment. They deal with this whenever they call attention to China’s deplorable human rights practices.
China uses tactics against human rights defenders like cyberbullying, death threats and racist name-calling. They also make credible threats against any relatives the Chinese Canadian activists may have back home. Whenever advocates organize pro-democracy rallies. groups of belligerent counter-protestors pop up. A confrontation like this got violent last year in British Columbia.
Direct and Indirect Links to Chinese State Actors
The coalition has evidence that perpetrators coordinate these activities. They can also show direct and indirect links to Chinese state actors. These gangs of thugs aren’t grassroots movements.
Increasingly, China targets Chinese Canadian activists on university campuses and even high schools. On-campus incidents are often directed at Chinese students supporting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The Canada-Hong Kong friendship goes way back. About 300,000 Canadians live in Hong Kong and more than 200,000 people born in Hong Kong live in Canada.
Alex Neve heads up the English branch of Amnesty International Canada. He described the issue this way, “This deeply worrying trend is clearly part of a longstanding and systematic campaign to silence public debate on serious human rights concerns in China which increasingly extends far beyond China’s borders,”
“Systematic Campaign to Silence Public Debate”
Neve said that police, intelligence agencies, members of parliament and cabinet ministers know all about the harassment of Chinese Canadian activists. Yet, the federal government hasn’t done much about it. “It’s time for a coordinated government approach to protect the rights of those raising awareness in Canada of serious human rights issues in China.”
France-Isabelle Langlois, Amnesty’s French branch chief, agrees. As she put it, “So far, the responses from Canadian officials have been piecemeal, at best.”
This isn’t the first report on this by the coalition. It released one in 2017 accusing China of oppressson against Chinese Canadian activists.
Discourages Activists from Reporting Specific Incidents
Government inaction discourages Chinese Canadian activists from reporting crimes. They’re used to being ignored. They’re resigned to the intimidation from overseas.
Langlois put it this way, “A number of individuals who have faced harassment and intimidation tell us they no longer bother reporting incidents of this nature to Canadian authorities.” She went on to say, “This puts an unacceptable chilling effect on free expression and other fundamental freedoms in Canada.”
The federal government has a reason for its “piecemeal at best” response. Relations between China and Canada have grown tense.
Relations Between China and Canada Have Grown Tense
Canada arrested Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in 2018. China retaliated by arresting two Canadian citizens living in China, and then two more, who face the death penalty.
Wanzhou’s arrest caused a trade war. Then, Canada condemned China’s oppression of the Uyghur people and other Muslims.
Another irritant is Canada’s denouncement of Hong Kong’s handling of demonstrations. A 2019 extradition bill sparked the protests.
China’s Government Wants to Become a Superpower
China’s intimidation campaigns against Chinese Canadian activists stem from its superpower ambitions. To realize them, they plan to spread their culture and influence globally.
This leads them to oppress dissidents living abroad. They also infiltrate ex-patriot Chinese communities.
China pressures elected officials, Chinese language media outlets, social media, and academic institutions in other countries. They coerce them to promote China’s interests.
Numerous severe human rights violations are ongoing inside China. These include suppressing pro-democracy movements.
Falun Gong Face Brutal Persecution
Religious followers of Falun Gong face brutal persecution. China still refuses to recognize Tibet’s independence.
As we’ve discussed before, China rounds up Uyghur people and other Muslims, holding them in a vast network of secret concentration camps. The camps torture and brainwash inmates.
Confucius Institute is China’s Propaganda Arm
China also exports the innocent-sounding Confucius Institute. It’s a propaganda arm of the Party posing as a cultural education program.
Schools infiltrated by the Confucius Institute complain about discrimination and threats to academic freedom. Issues include threats, monitoring, surveillance, and censorship.
Seven-Point Action Planto Confront China’s Harassment
The coalition’s new report includes a seven-point action plan to confront China’s harassment of Chinese Canadian Activists. Recommendations include:
- Appoint a centralized focal point within the government to be the primary frontline contact for individuals and groups facing harassment and intimidation linked to activism on human rights concerns in China;
- Maintain high-level diplomatic engagement with China on the harassment and intimidation issue;
- Continually reassess economic and trade ties with China and prioritize human rights concerns in their bilateral relationship;
- Work with other governments to raise concerns about Chinese human rights violations;
- Affirm its opposition to these violations of normal diplomatic practise;
- Establish an independent public inquiry into methods and incidents of interference specific to the education sector; and
- Examine legislation in other jurisdictions countering covert foreign interference and consider enacting similar legislation in Canada.
China’s abuse of our fellow citizens should concern every Canadian. To make sure this plan happens, we need to educate ourselves on China’s deplorable human rights abuses and act to make changes.
We always have more to learn if we dare to know.
Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China
Harassment and Intimidation of Individuals in Canada Working on China-related Human Rights Concerns
Human Rights Call to Action from UN Chief
China’s Human Rights Record Highlights HRW Report
China Cables: Secret Muslim Persecution Exposed
China’s Secret Muslim Persecution