‘Do not be afraid’: As Beijing flexes its muscle, groups teach Canadian values to Chinese immigrants
As the official spokeswoman for the Chinese-Canadian family of a 13-year-old girl murdered in Burnaby, B.C., Meena Wong’s thoughtful comments about the case earlier this month were broadly covered by the province’s English-language media.
In the local Chinese press, she was all but ignored.
It was no big surprise. A Beijing native who openly criticizes her mother country’s government, Wong says she’s not exactly a sought-after figure in the Chinese-immigrant establishment. Buffeted by Beijing’s soft-power muscle-flexing, many in the community shy away from any public criticism of China’s Communist regime.
But an unusual group Wong founded may offer an antidote.
The Civic Engagement Network seeks partly to remind newcomers from the People’s Republic about Canadian values and human rights, and an event Friday — called “What does being Canadian mean?” — will try to drive home the importance of those freedoms.
Among the speakers at a local library branch, is a Vancouver blogger who tested the limits of the democratic system. Bingchen Gao helped expose a 2016 fundraising dinner for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended by a Chinese billionaire, an event that prompted allegations Trudeau was selling access to foreign business people. He later fought off a libel suit by the fundraiser’s host.
“The reason I came here personally was because of what Canada stands for,” said Wong. “I feel free to speak up, I feel free to live the life I want to live without fear … As a Canadian, I want to focus on people from China, Chinese-speaking residents to (help them) understand what this country is all about.”
In her bid to win recent immigrants over to Canada’s liberal system, Wong has some company.
Another Vancouver-area group, the Alliance of the Guard of Canadian Values, holds protests against Chinese policies, but also regular seminars to talk to new immigrants about Canadian democratic principles, says leader Louis Huang.
Some have simply been kept ignorant of the dark side of China’s autocratic system; he speaks to students studying here who know virtually nothing about the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
Student groups call for Ottawa to investigate alleged interference by Chinese officials on Canadian campuses
How China uses shadowy United Front as ‘magic weapon’ to try to extend its influence in Canada
‘Canada is a white supremacist foreign enemy’: A sample of Chinese media’s recent Canada bashing
Huang said most leave China for Canada to escape that system, but realize that if they question the party line, relatives overseas could be threatened, or businesses they own there undermined.
“Our goal is to tell them, ‘Do not be afraid,’ ” said the former Shanghai pediatrician. “If more and more people speak out, say no to the Chinese Communist Party, we can make progress, one by one, step by step.”
Added Huang: “Canada is a country that welcomes all the immigrants, but all the immigrants have a responsibility to respect Canadian values, to respect human rights, the Charter, our culture.”
Experts, though, say China has funneled unprecedented resources recently into its own campaign to mould opinion in foreign countries, targeting both the Chinese diaspora …read more