A government report on Chinese espionage activities in Canada accuses Beijing of engaging in a “systematic campaign of intelligence gathering, persuasion, influence and manipulation” against the Chinese community.
In the report obtained by Global News, Canadian officials alleged that the Office of Overseas Chinese Affairs was responsible for “influencing or manipulating” members of the community and using “coercive tactics” against dissidents and minorities.
“It involves the intimidation of OC (Overseas Chinese) at all levels of society,” the report said.
“Managing their behavior is accomplished through inducements or disincentives, as well as intelligence gathering, surveillance, and subversion against OC communities.”
A remarkably candid insight into Chinese intelligence activities, the report was leaked in a recent court case involving a former employee of the Office of Overseas Chinese Affairs (OCAO) who attempted to immigrate to Canada.
While China has been widely accused of targeting the diaspora, particularly pro-Taiwan and democracy activists, as well as Uyghurs and Falun Gong practitioners, the Canadian government‘s position on such activities is rarely made public. .
China claims the OCAO is responsible for Chinese citizens living overseas, but the Canadian report argues that it “engages in espionage” and “is known to operate in Canada.”
“OCAO is involved in covert action and coercion against OC communities and other minorities around the world by targeting overseas Chinese dissidents and engaging in intelligence gathering about OC and their activities. “, did he declare.
“OCAO works to undermine individuals identified as threats to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), and it organizes and monitors ‘overseas Chinese business, student, cultural, media and political networks’.”
Written by the Security Screening Directorate of the Canada Border Services Agency, the March 2020 report is a rare look at Canada’s official assessment of Chinese espionage and foreign influence activities in the country and in the world.
Last week, the Federal Court dismissed an appeal filed by former OCAO employee Yong Zhang to overturn a decision rejecting his application for permanent residency.
The court ruled that the immigration officer who handled his case had “reasonably determined” that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that the information gathering was taking place in Canada against overseas Chinese communities.” Wed”.
Zhang’s attorney, Jacqueline Bonisteel, said her client was never charged with personally participating in the espionage. On the contrary, he would have been a junior member of an organization that Canada accused of spying, she said.
“He had no personal involvement, he’s not a spy,” the lawyer said.
The Federal Court said he had been a computer technician at the OCAO between 1984 and 2002, when he moved to an administrative position. He was “chief staff member” when he retired in 2004, he added.
Neither the OCAO nor the Chinese Embassy could be reached for comment.
Mehmet Tohti, a Uyghur community leader in Ottawa, said the details of the CBSA report and the judge’s decision were accurate and spoke about threats of espionage and foreign interference in Canada.
He alleged that he was one of those targeted.
Hours before testifying before a parliamentary committee on China in July 2020, he said he received a message that his mother was “dead”. The Uyghur rallies in Toronto have also sparked counter-protests which he says were orchestrated by the foreign affairs office.
“The Chinese government has spent enormous resources to support these overseas organizations in Canada and elsewhere,” the activist said.
“These groups are very well funded in Beijing to undermine democracy and freedom in Canada. This is a very well-founded decision and it should be applied in all federal government agencies, in order to prevent espionage and surveillance, and to protect the safety and well-being of Canadians.
In the report, which cites the US government, academic journals and news reports, the CBSA called China’s intelligence services among the most active in the world and said they were changing and “getting more aggressive”. .
“While estimates on the number of spies vary, it has been reported that ‘China can rightly claim to have the largest, most amorphous, but also most active intelligence sector in the world… like any Chinese , especially those from China, from student to CEO, are potential active intelligence assets,” the CBSA report states.
The report said the Chinese Communist Party is concerned about “eliminating rival rhetoric or potential threats among OC groups that criticize the regime or challenge its grip on power.”
“To mitigate these threats, the CPC is responding to the OCAO, which has set up ‘PRC attachments’. [Peoples Republic of China] embassies, consulates and representative agencies in almost every country to liaise personally with local CO communities.
The OCAO “focuses on eliminating threats to the regime, such as those that promote Taiwan independence. Likewise, the OCAO is known for coordinating anti-Falun Gong efforts overseas,” he said.
The OCAO “identifies enemies of the PRC, monitors the diaspora, manipulates organizations, and is involved in covert intelligence gathering. The OCAO focuses on eliminating threats to the regime and seeks to undermine those threats in the countries in which it operates.
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Former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu said the Chinese Communist Party “views overseas Chinese as an asset to be used selfishly through manipulation and control to advance their interests”.
Chiu, who lost his seat in Richmond, British Columbia, in the last federal election following what he said were attacks by Chinese Communist Party operatives, said Canada will not was not doing enough to fight foreign interference.
“The result is that, ironically, in a multicultural society like Canada, many communities can prioritize their priorities by aligning themselves more with these foreign states, rather than what is essential for themselves and their families. living here.”