Activists of Chinese ethnicity are at odds about whether Canada should keep a record of people advocating on behalf of foreign governments.
Ally Wang, an advocate against anti-Asian racism in Richmond, launched a petition to the Canadian government last week claiming that starting a foreign interference registry is a “misleading” way to pinpoint sources of foreign influence.
Wang had led protests during the trial of a racist incident at Steveston’s Rocanini Coffee Roasters, and her video encouraging Chinese Canadians to vote briefly went viral in 2021.
The petition is a response to the Canadian government’s potential plan to implement a foreign influence transparency registry. The consultation period for the merits of the plan began last month, where community members are asked to answer a six-question anonymous survey before May 9, 2023.
“It is difficult to distinguish between positive and malign foreign influence, which goes well beyond agents who are acting for foreign governments,” reads the petition, adding that broadly defining foreign influence can infringe on charter rights and stifle commercial and societal connections.
The petition also argues that the registry would pose a “serious harassment and stigmatization risk for racialized communities” and potentially discourage vulnerable communities from civic engagement and public service.
However, it doesn’t appear to be completely against the registry.
“… if a registry is necessary, it should apply to all countries equally and be based on specific arrangements such as monetary payment between individuals or organizations and a foreign state, rather than on hypothetical or presumed arrangements,” reads the petition.
It adds that only those lobbying government officials and politicians should be registered and the registry should not be based on “country of origin, ethnicity, business and civil society affiliations, and most importantly, on one’s views.”
So far, 748 signatures have been recorded with 302 from B.C.
Race card can’t be used as a shield against wrongdoing
Meanwhile, the Chinese Canadian Concern Group on CCP’s Human Rights Violations, a group made up of immigrants from Hong Kong, is cautioning against shying away from the investigations based on racism allegations.
“The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) has often used racism as a shield to deflect criticism of its human rights violations.
“Some even equate the discrimination and persecution experienced by Chinese and Japanese Canadians in the past with the call to investigate and prevent China infiltration and interference today, including some historians, which is truly alarming,” reads their open letter to David Johnston, the special rapporteur investigating foreign interference in Canada’s recent federal elections.
Members of the concern group, including Richmond’s Victor Ho and Bill Chu, have lived in Canada for an average of 25 years.
The letter lists a variety of infiltration tactics by the Chinese Communist Party, including mobilization efforts through Chinese Canadian community organizations, manipulation of Canadian Chinese-language media, censorship and propaganda on Chinese social media such as WeChat, and connections with local politicians and influential figures.
In Richmond, former Steveston-Richmond East MP Kenny Chiu has claimed that he lost his seat due to a misinformation campaign, while the Wenzhou Friendship Society on Hazelbridge Way is currently under investigation for being an alleged “overseas Chinese police station.” Two protests have been held outside the location after it was suspected to have interfered in Canadian politics.
“The government cannot ignore foreign interference for fear of being accused of ‘racism,’” reads the letter.
“Conversely, those who claim to be community leaders and use ‘racism’ as a smokescreen to deflect the CCP’s human rights violations and other atrocities should ask themselves if their actions and words would call the Chinese-Canadian community’s loyalty into question more than having a transparent and accountable investigation process.”
The foreign influence registry petition is by no means Wang’s first foray into online advocacy.
In 2021, Wang signed a petition in support of retired judge Bill Yee. Yee was removed from the B.C. Chinese-Canadian Community Advisory Committee after he gave an interview on Cantonese radio where he dismissed allegations of the Xinjiang genocide as lies.
She also penned an article claiming the backlash on B.C. senator Yuen Pau Woo, who opposed to labelling China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang as genocide, was motivated by racism.
Regarding the foreign influence registry, Senator Woo has compared the investigation into China interference in Canada to the Chinese Exclusion Act a hundred years ago.