(Ottawa) China has mastered the art of insidiously interfering in elections in Canada. And it will be almost impossible to counter any form of interference from Beijing in the next federal election in the country, warns a former Conservative MP from British Columbia, Kenny Chiu.
Kenny Chiu was first elected as Member of Parliament for Steveston–Richmond East in the October 2019 federal election. following a vast disinformation campaign carried out against him by the Chinese communist regime on the WeChat social network.
In an interview with The Press, on Friday, the former Conservative MP confirmed that he met with two investigators from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in the middle of the last election campaign to give them evidence of Chinese interference. The meeting took place at his request in the electoral office he had rented in Richmond and it lasted more than an hour.
“I sounded the alarm then. I could see that there was a sophisticated disinformation campaign with the aim of interfering in the campaign, ”says Mr. Chiu, who has returned to the business world, on the phone.
Nearly half of the residents in his riding are of Chinese origin. Many of them get news only from WeChat, a mobile text and voice messaging application developed by Chinese giant Tencent Holdings Limited. This application is very popular in China and with the Chinese diaspora all over the world, who use it to communicate with family and friends who still live in China. It has over a billion accounts.
China uses multiple means at its disposal to interfere in elections. She long ago surpassed Russia in this respect.
Kenny Chiu, former Conservative MP
“The disinformation that raged during the last elections was one of the factors that contributed to my defeat,” he adds.
“Unfortunately, the Trudeau government is dragging its feet despite numerous reports of foreign interference. He does not take this threat seriously. »
The daily The Globe and Mail reported last week that China used a sophisticated strategy during the 2021 election campaign to secure the re-election of a minority Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau and defeat conservative candidates deemed hostile to the Chinese communist regime.
The daily claims to have seen the scale of the interference operation carried out by Beijing by consulting secret CSIS documents relating to the period before and after the September 2021 elections.
The Conservative Party says at least eight of its candidates died in the 2021 federal election because of campaign interference from China. Among them, three were incumbents, including Mr. Chiu.
Described as a threat
During the last campaign, Mr. Chiu was particularly in the crosshairs of the Chinese authorities after he tabled in the House of Commons, six months before the federal elections, a private member’s bill aimed at establishing a register of foreign agents of influence. The United States has such a register while Australia adopted a foreign influence transparency program in 2018. The United Kingdom has launched consultations on the creation of a similar register.
Beijing believed that Bill C-282 was openly hostile to its emissaries in Canada. The bill died on the order paper following the election call.
When he was a member of parliament, Mr. Chiu, who is a native of Hong Kong and emigrated to Canada in 1982, was also vice-chairman of a subcommittee of the House of Commons which looked into the ill-treatment reserved for the Uighur minority in China. The committee concluded that this mistreatment constituted genocide.
Articles attacking Mr. Chiu for introducing this bill have been published on WeChat and other Chinese social media as well as in the newspaper. GlobalTimes – a newspaper close to the Communist Party in Beijing.
“WeChat is an application that is very closely monitored by the Chinese government, explains the former politician. No information that would be unfavorable to the Chinese regime is permitted. »
The articles described Mr. Chiu’s bill as racist and threatening to Chinese Canadians. Other articles attacked the Conservative Party and then-leader Erin O’Toole for promising a tough policy on China.
“One of the articles claimed that if Mr. O’Toole won the election, he would ban the use of WeChat in Canada. He was described as a racist leader because he criticized the Chinese Communist Party,” Chiu said.
In all its communications, the Chinese Communist Party presents itself as the sole defender of China’s interests.
“This aims to demonstrate that the Chinese Communist Party represents the Chinese nation, and any criticism of the party is also criticism of China and of all Chinese people,” Chiu said.
“We are facing an asymmetric information war. China does not allow its people to have free access to information. But in Canada, there is no such control over information, whether it is true or false. Therefore, I didn’t really have a way to counter this. »