Burton: Why are Chinese police operating in Canada, while our own government and security services apparently look the other way?

Good questions:

In China, the high-profile TV drama In The Name Of The People has become a smash hit. In that show, Chinese agents enter the U.S. posing as businessmen so they can repatriate a factory manager who had fled abroad with huge ill-gotten wealth.

But a new study by the European non-governmental agency Safeguard Defenders suggests that there might be some truth to the fiction. According to the NGO, the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau has established more than 50 “overseas police service centres” in cities around the world – including three publicly documented ones in Toronto, home to Canada’s largest Chinese diaspora.

This is an outrage. Chinese police setting up offices in Canada, then “persuading” alleged criminals to return to the motherland to face “justice” – while our own government and security services apparently choose to look the other way – represents a gross violation of Canada’s national sovereignty, international law and the norms of diplomacy. China is extending the grip of its Orwellian police state into this country, with seemingly no worry about being confronted by our own national security agencies.

The RCMP and politicians of all stripes routinely condemn Chinese state harassment of people in Canada, but what action has been taken? There have been no arrests or any expulsion of any Chinese diplomats who might be co-ordinating this kind of thuggery.

Beijing describes these global police outposts as administrative centres to help Chinese nationals renew driver’s licences and other domestic banalities back home. But the Safeguard Defenders study found that they also hunt down political dissidents, corrupt officials or rogue Chinese alleged criminals and urge them to return home.

The summary says some of these operatives are given cover by being formally attached to local Chinese Overseas Home Associations (which have themselves largely become co-opted by the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work operations and run out of China’s embassy and consulates).

This bold strategy is consistent with China’s propensity for routinely flouting international laws, including those that require any other country’s police wishing to gather evidence in Canada to work through the RCMP.

In the case of these “police service centres,” Safeguard Defenders reports that agents press their targets to return home, including by offering vague promises of leniency or even urging families back home to encourage them to do so. The officers have taken aim at these alleged (and unproven) criminals by seizing their families’ assets, denying children in China access to schools, and terminating family members’ employment, all in violation of due process.

In Canada, this has been a reality for years. In 2001, during refugee hearings in Vancouver for Lai Changxing – a businessman wanted by Beijing over accusations of corruption and smuggling – Chinese police admitted to entering Canada using fake documents, and even to spiriting in Mr. Lai’s brother in an attempt to convince him to return home. Canadian authorities effectively smiled benignly at this serious breach of criminal and immigration law; Mr. Lai was eventually deported back to China.

Canada is becoming China’s chew toy. Consider Beijing’s alleged disinformation campaign which helped “unfriendly” Conservative MPs of Chinese ethnicity, including Kenny Chiu, lose their seats in the 2021 federal election.

Ottawa wants Canadian businesses to be able to tap into the world’s largest market. But the price of this access appears to be ignoring Beijing’s Canadian agenda, from military and industrial espionage to harassing Canadian Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners and ethnic Chinese and Taiwanese people who reject Beijing’s hectoring that they should be loyal to China instead of to Canada.

Does Canada have no security capabilities on the issue? Our police and security agencies must surely know what is going on, but for some reason prefer to simply curate their information rather than act on it. When asked by The Globe and Mail about the police service centres, an RCMP spokesperson said the force would not comment on “uncorroborated media reports or statements.” And most of the information we receive about China’s illegal and “grey zone” activities in Canada typically comes from the U.S. government and well-funded security and intelligence-focused think tanks in Australia and Europe.

The more we ignore reports of China’s growing presence in Canada – including its interference in our electoral process, its potential espionage in our universities and research institutes, and so on – the more emboldened and manipulative Chinese agents become. With no sign that it will be held accountable, China will only increase the size and threat of its operations, because it can.

With its seeming indifference toward China’s blatant contempt for our laws and security, Ottawa is playing an extremely dangerous game with Canada’s sovereignty.

Source: Why are Chinese police operating in Canada, while our own government and security services apparently look the other way?

Burton: Ottawa has continued its mysterious deference to China. What happened to the promised ‘reset’?

Valid questions regarding another policy and delivery failure:

As we mark the six-month anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraineand on world order, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced the creation of a special team in Canada to counter the Kremlin’s raging disinformation campaign.

There is a real need to address this threat to the concept of truth, which is the basis of democracy and human rights. But why limit the team’s mandate to the lies of just one offender? This essentially tells China that Ottawa will not be responding to the more richly funded propaganda scheme being run out of Chinese embassies and consulates across Canada. 

Chinese leader Xi Jinping touts this initiative as one of the Chinese Communist Party’s “magic weapons” of domestic and global manipulation. It has been used to sabotage World Health Organization research into the origins of COVID-19; suppress truth surrounding genocide against Uyghurs; and dissuade influential Canadians from promoting measures that threaten Beijing’s espionage efforts, including Canada’s security and technology partnerships with our allies. 

The propaganda campaign, which includes conspiracy theories promulgated by pro-Beijing Chinese language media in Canada, threatens our democracy. It already cost Canadian MPs of Chinese heritage their seats in the last election, and because we do nothing about it, we can expect more in the next election. The Chinese-language media’s hate-mongering includes accusations of pervasive racism against everybody in Canada with Chinese ancestry. Readers of China’s WeChat and other platforms are implored to respond by identifying with the Motherland and becoming loyal to the Chinese Communist Party.

The disinformation campaign also maligns Canadian citizens of Chinese origin — like Xiao Jianhua, Huseyin Celil and 300,000 or so Canadians resident in Hong Kong — as “Chinese-Canadian passport holders,” implying some lesser Canadian citizenship than European-Canadian passport holders who are simply Canadians, with no hyphenated modifiers. 

Ottawa’s refusal to confront this harassment of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Falun Gong and Chinese democracy activists in Canada is shameful. In 2020, then foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne promised to take action, but nothing happened. Last year Rob Oliphant, parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, said Canada was “actively considering” a registry of foreign agents (similar to U.S. and Australian measures) to counter China’s malign activities in Canada. But this was evidently a hollow promise to appease Canadians’ resentment over China’s subversive operations here.

Canada seems incapable of doing anything about China, due to the incompatibility of the Ottawa doctrine that we must maintain close relations with Beijing regardless of public opinion. When China’s ambassador in Ottawa threatened Canada about crossing a “red line” on Taiwan, warning officials to draw lessons from the past (read: hostage diplomacy) if our MPs set foot in Taiwan, our prime minister didn’t even condemn the remarks, but simply urged MPs to reflect on the “consequences” of such a visit.

The government seems in similar paralysis over naming a new ambassador to China, a position that has been unfilled throughout 2022. Whoever is appointed will inherit the dark shadow of our last two ambassadors — John McCallum and Dominic Barton — who have personal business connections in China and were perceived as promoting Beijing’s interests over Canada’s. When it comes to Chinese diplomacy, Canadians increasingly assume that conflict of interest will prevail over Canada’s national interests and moral integrity. 

Last June, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced the formation of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Advisory Committee. After five years of promising a China policy reset, informed sources say the government’s China policy supporters on this committee are debating how to exclude any mention of China whatsoever in our Indo-Pacific policy declaration. 

As this theatre of the absurd drags on, Canada’s lack of a principled China policy is debasing any confidence the U.S. and other allies have in Ottawa’s competence.

Sadly, based on the performance so far, there is no sign of any meaningful China “reset” coming out of Ottawa before the next federal election.

Source: Ottawa has continued its mysterious deference to China. What happened to the promised ‘reset’?

What duty of care does Canada have? Joly denies abandoning Ukrainian embassy staff

This is another embarrassing episode for the government in general, and Global Affairs and Minister Joly in particular. Hopefully any review of “duty of care” will start with a review of relevant historical examples such as Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Iran (1980 and 2012), Afghanistan, and analyse the similarities and differences, along with the policy rationales. But before the report, this letter to the editor provides a sharp contrast to what happened in former Yugoslavia in 1999:
When NATO bombed Yugoslavia in 1999, the Milosevic regime threatened the Serbian staff of member country embassies, labelling them as collaborators from whom retribution would be exacted. Before evacuating the Canadian staff of the embassy in Belgrade, we advanced six months’ salary to all local staff and the immigration section issued visas to them and their immediate families. None of this was directed by what was then Foreign Affairs in Ottawa. Since ambassadors have plenipotentiary powers, I was able to make the necessary decisions sur place. Had we waited for instructions, I am afraid little would have been done. That same inability to act promptly in a crisis may have been the underlying reason for Global Affairs Canada abandoning our local staff in Kyiv. Raphael Girard Former ambassador to Yugoslavia; Montreal
Source: Different time
The Canadian government says it is reviewing its duty to local staff members at missions abroad following a media report that its Ukrainian employees in Kyiv were not alerted to the threats against them and were left to fend for themselves with the Russian invasion looming. On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly was asked if her office was aware of the intelligence that Ukrainian staff for foreign embassies were allegedly on Russia’s list of targeted individuals — and deliberately withheld the information from the local staff at the mission. “Never did I or the department have any information targeting locally engaged Canadian staff. We never got that information, nor me or my team or the department,” Joly told reporters at a joint news conference with her visiting German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, after the two met to discuss the energy and food security crises as well as trade. “I know we have a specific duty of care. I know this is in conversations within the department whether that duty of care applies to locally engaged staff. I would say that morally we have an obligation toward locally engaged staff.” This week, the Globe and Mail reported that the Canadian embassy in Kyiv received a secret briefing from allies in January that the Russian invasion was imminent and that Ukrainians working for western countries could face arrest or execution. The Canadian staff members were also reportedly warned not to share the information with their Ukrainian colleagues. Joly said she had spoken “directly” with the locally engaged staff about their safety and security during her visits in Ukraine in January before the war and followed up with the department and Canadian ambassador in Kyiv, Larisa Galadza, on this issue, throughout, including on Feb. 24, when the war was declared. “Ukraine is a war-torn country, we wanted to make sure that they had options. They were offered options to come to Canada. Some of them have decided to come. Some of them have decided to stay,” said Joly, who praised the contributions of the local Ukrainian staff members. “They were also given full payment and compensation and benefits, although for some time the diplomats were outside of the country.” Joly said a review process called the “Future of Diplomacy” has already been launched to study the issues surrounding the duty of care for local employees in time of crises. The alleged abandonment of the Ukrainian local staff has called into question how Canada applies its duty of care to local staff at diplomatic missions abroad. In Afghanistan, for instance, Ottawa introduced a special immigration program for current and former Afghan employees and contractors, as well as their families, in anticipation of the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban last year. Experts on consular services say evacuations of locally engaged staff are inconsistently applied based on the quality of risk assessments. Local employees are crucial to consular operations, especially in a crisis. “There is no straight line in diplomacy and there is no straight line in security,” said Ferry de Kerckhove, a career Canadian diplomat who was ambassador in Indonesia during the 2002 Bali terrorist bombings and in Egypt between 2008 and 2011 during the Arab Spring movement. De Kerckhove, who spent 38 years in foreign service, said whether to evacuate local staff or not is decided by the ambassador in consultation with Ottawa. The assessment is complex and involves Global Affairs Canada, the immigration department and other ministries. Although he is not privy to the intelligence or circumstances on the ground in Kyiv, he said, generally, unless there’s a really dire situation, the government would need those staff on the ground. “I would assume that if there was a situation in Kyiv that would become really worrisome, we would probably consider bringing in the staff the same way we bring refugees in,” said de Kerckhove, now a senior fellow in public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa. “I don’t think there is a prima facie case of saying yes or no. It would be on a case-by-case basis.” Any evacuation involving Canadian and domestic staff is taken seriously because it’s an onerous and time-sensitve process and officials are often hesitant to let go of the essential staff. He said there are also concerns by officials over “opening the floodgate” in terms of eligibility and access. “The consistency comes from the quality of the analysis of the assessment of the given situation. It’s the situation at any given time that determines the quality of the assessment,” said de Kerckhove. “So any consular manual rule would allow enough leeway to be able to make an assessment based on changing circumstances.” Earlier this year, the Senate committee on foreign affairs and international trade initiated a review of the Canadian foreign service. In May, Joly announced the review to modernize the department and adapt to the changing geopolitical environment. Global Affairs Canada officials said discussions over the duty-of-care issue have been part of that review. Patricia Fortier, an expert on consular services with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said the inclusion of the issue in the review is timely. “There is a need for people to understand the balance that’s needed. And if this results in a more balanced approach to duty of care, this will really be helpful,” said the retired Canadian diplomat, who was most recently assistant deputy minister for security, consular and emergency management in Global Affairs Canada. “Right now, the problem of taking duty of care to its logical end is you end up (being) totally risk-averse. Diplomacy requires always a certain amount of risk. You can’t keep everybody under lock and key and not go places that are risky.” Fortier said actions required in response to a crisis are never straightforward and there are no cookie-cutter solutions. While the United States, Canada and Britain withdrew their embassy staff in Kyiv in the buildup of the Russian war, other allies opted to stay. “I’m not sure what kind of thinking went into the decisions, but what I want to address is intelligence. Anybody within the foreign service for any length of time can get a lot of stuff across their desk. And all intelligence needs to be assessed,” said Fortier. “Sometimes it’s right. A lot of times it’s not right. Nothing happens. So one of the questions I have is, how serious was this?” Carleton University international affairs professor David Carment said there’s no indication that Kyiv is going to be under any form of attack except for missile strikes, which target assets such as arms shipments that the Russians deem important to the Ukrainian war effort. If the locally engaged staff have been engaged in work and activities related to the war effort such as collecting intelligence, which would certainly put their lives at risk, a strong argument could then be made for their evacuation to Canada, he said. “We don’t know the details on that. But to automatically assume that the Russians are going to capture them and torture them just because they happen to be on the Canadian side is problematic,” noted Carment, a senior fellow with the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy, a non-partisan think tank based in Toronto. The issue is beyond just securing the safety of individual foreign service officers, but ensuring Canada has a credible presence in countries that are risky, he said. “One of the questions that needs to be considered is whether this duty-of-care approach is an effort to convince Canadians who might want to be foreign service officers to serve abroad where they’re more likely to be at risk,” said Carment. “So it is a bigger argument. It’s one that has to be placed in the context of having a strong diplomatic presence.” Source: What duty of care does Canada have? Joly denies abandoning Ukrainian embassy staff

Momani: Biden’s futile trip to Saudi Arabia

Of note. Pivoting to address new circumstances has consequences:

American President Joe Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia this past weekend was bad theatre. At best it gave the impression of him addressing American consumers’ woes and at worst reaffirmed every skeptic’s view of hypocritical U.S. foreign policy. Make no mistake – this trip would not have happened were it not for Mr. Biden’s dwindling approval ratings at home, attributed in part to rising inflation and growing fears of a recession. Both economic woes are tied to high energy costs caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Biden administration officials provided a laundry list of reasons for the President’s trip, from the long-time favourite of “promoting peace in the Middle East” to getting the Saudis to increase oil production to ease prices on American consumers. But geopolitical and oil market experts had rightly assessed that nothing substantive would come from this trip when it came to either issue. Despite Israeli-Saudi commercial, defence and intelligence ties being at an all-time high, the frail and elderly King Salman was not expected to sign a formal peace treaty with the Israelis. He will instead leave this to his son, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), to ink when he becomes king.

On oil, Saudi Arabia is already pumping crude at record levels and has very little spare capacity for export. Saudi Arabia’s scorching summer heat also means it has high energy needs of its own to power its air conditioners. Hence while Saudi officials paid lip service to providing the world with a stable supply of crude oil, few expected any substantive change to its output levels. Unsurprisingly, oil prices have not decreased since Biden’s Saudi trip.

Yet, this trip’s futility highlights a recurrent issue in U.S. foreign policy. It was only a few short years ago that Mr. Biden, then on the presidential campaign trail, said he would make Saudi Arabia “a pariah” for its involvement in the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist and Saudi democracy activist, Jamal Khashoggi. There has been little change in U.S. foreign policy toward Saudi Arabia during Biden’s time as President, but at minimum the soon-to-be ruler of the oil-rich kingdom was seen as persona non grata in international forums. At G20 meetings, most Western leaders went to great lengths to avoid being pictured with the ostracized monarch.

Of course, leaders of China and Russia have been quite happy to be seen with MBS. They have continued to make lucrative deals with the world’s largest oil exporter and weapons importer. For much of the world, business and realpolitik sadly eclipses any notion of a human rights-based foreign policy. While many may have scoffed at Donald Trump’s transactional foreign policy during his time in the presidential office, it can at least be said that he was transparent about courting Saudi Arabia for its money alone. He boasted at having encouraged them to buy more U.S. arms and to allow further American investment in the Kingdom.

Mr. Biden claimed U.S. foreign policy would change from the Trump era. Yet there was Mr. Biden this weekend giving MBS a fist-bump and proceeding to sit across the table from the man who, for ordering the dismemberment of Mr. Khashoggi’s body, was dubbed Mr. Bone Saw. Saudi media reported that MBS used the meeting with Biden to point out the U.S.’s own human rights failures, from the 2004 Abu Ghraib prison abuses when the U.S. occupied Iraq to the most recent whitewashing of the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

There are consequences to this U.S. hypocrisy. When the West asked for support in condemning Russia for its brutal war and occupation of Ukraine, it was no wonder that so many long-time U.S. allies declined to support a UN resolution condemning Russia. Across the world, states have rebuffed the U.S. and the West, instead choosing to continue to do business with Vladimir Putin’s regime despite the horrors it inflicts on Ukraine. They have rejected the West’s normative framing of the war on Ukraine as one of Western values of democracy versus autocracy.

After all, it only took Mr. Biden two years for an about-face on an autocratic Saudi Arabia. How long will it be before the West capitulates and imports Russian oil and grain, or calls the occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea and the Donbas “facts on the ground.” The consequences of Mr. Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia is an affirmation of what has long been skeptics’ view of U.S. foreign policy: self-serving and hypocritical.

Bessma Momani is professor in the department of political science at the University of Waterloo and senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Source: Biden’s futile trip to Saudi Arabia

Confucius Institutes reappear under new names – Report

Not that surprising, unfortunately:

Chinese government-funded language and culture centres known as Confucius Institutes have rapidly closed down across the United States over the past four years amid pressure from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Department of State, the US Congress, and state legislatures, concerned about China’s influence on universities. 

Of 118 Confucius Institutes that existed in the US, 104 closed by the end of 2021 or are in the process of doing so. 

Many institutions were forced to refund money to the Chinese government – sometimes in excess of US$1 million – according to a new wide-ranging report on Confucius Institutes (CIs) in the US by the National Association of Scholars, which was among the first to call for the closure of all Confucius Institutes on US campusesbefore the US Senate in 2019 called for greater transparency or closure.

However, “many once-defunct Confucius Institutes have since reappeared in other forms”, according to the association’s just-released reportAfter Confucius Institutes: China’s enduring influence on American higher education. It adds: “The single most popular reason institutions give when they close a CI is to replace it with a new Chinese partnership programme.”

US institutions “have entered new sister university agreements with Chinese universities, established ‘new’ centres closely modelled on defunct Confucius Institutes, and even continued to receive funding from the same Chinese government agencies that funded the Confucius Institutes,” it said. 

“In no cases (out of the 104 institutions) are we sufficiently confident to classify any university as having fully closed its Confucius Institute.” 

Rebranding and replacing

“Overall, we find that the Chinese government has carefully courted American colleges and universities, seeking to persuade them to keep their Confucius Institutes or, failing that, to reopen similar programmes under other names,” the report said.

American colleges and universities, too, appear eager to replace their Confucius Institutes with other forms of engagement with China, “frequently in ways that mimic the major problems with Confucius Institutes,” the report said. “Among its most successful tactics has been the effort to rebrand Confucius Institute-like programmes under other names.”

Some 28 institutions have replaced (and 12 have sought to replace) their closed Confucius Institute with a similar programme. Around 58 have maintained (and five may have maintained) close relationships with their former CI partner. About five have (and three may have) transferred their Confucius Institute to a new host, “thereby keeping the CI alive”.

Hanban, the Chinese government agency that launched Confucius Institutes, renamed itself the Ministry of Education Center for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC) and spun off a separate organisation, the Chinese International Education Foundation (CIEF), that now funds and oversees Confucius Institutes and many of their replacements as part of a rebranding exercise in July 2020, designed to counter negative perceptions about CIs abroad. 

“In reality, the line between the Chinese government and its offshoot organisations is paper-thin. CIEF is under the supervision of the Chinese Ministry of Education and is funded by the Chinese government,” the report noted. 

Many CI staff migrated to CI-replacement programmes at the same university, according to the report which scrutinised a large number of contracts between CIs and US universities. It added that some CI textbooks and materials remain on the campuses of institutions that closed CIs.

The Chinese government has reacted by defending Confucius Institutes outright, but the report notes it has also “relied on the art of subterfuge, rebranding Confucius Institutes under different names and massaging their outlines to be less obvious to the public, and better camouflaged within the university”.

Three types of action were identified in the report: replacing the CI, maintaining a partnership in some way with the CI, or transferring the CI to a new home. 

Replacing the CI

Many universities are eager to ditch the now-toxic name ‘Confucius Institute’ but retain funding and close relationships with Chinese institutions, the report noted. 

“At least 28 universities replaced their Confucius Institute with a similar programme, and another 12 may have done so. Sometimes these replacement programmes are so closely modelled on CIs that we are tempted to call them renamed Confucius Institutes.”

Replacing the CI means the US institution “retained, on its own campus and as part of its own programming, substantial pieces of its Confucius Institute under a different name. This includes institutions that formed new replacement programmes with the Chinese university that had partnered in the Confucius Institute,” the report said. 

It also includes institutions that formed new China-focused centres that took on Confucius Institute staff, Confucius Institute programmes, or funding from the CLEC or CIEF, the successors to Hanban.

For example, the University of Michigan, among others, sought to retain Hanban funding even after the closure of the Confucius Institute. Federal disclosures cited by the report show the university received more than US$300,000 from Hanban in May and June 2019, just as the Confucius Institute was closing in June 2019, though the report notes these disclosures have since been deleted from the Department of Education’s website.

Maintaining a partnership

While some Chinese partners reacted with shock at the notification to close the CI, and even threatened to sever all other connection between them and the US university host, setting up a new partnership with a Chinese institution is the single most frequently cited reason given by US institutions for closing a Confucius Institute, the report found.

Forty of 104 institutions (38%) say they are replacing the Confucius Institute with a new partnership, often one that is quite similar to the Confucius Institute. “Many others do in practice arrange for alternative engagement with China, even if they do not say this in the same statement in which they announce the closure of the Confucius Institute,” the report said. 

The Chinese government often encouraged US universities, when they applied for a Confucius Institute, to first establish a sister university relationship with a Chinese university. For example, Arizona State University (ASU) became sister universities with Sichuan University, “having been led to believe that doing so would aid its bid to host a CI,” the report noted, adding that ASU did in fact establish a CI with Sichuan University, and the sister university relationship has survived the CI closure.

Upon closing a Confucius Institute, some US universities developed new partnerships with their Chinese partner universities, or maintained pre-existing partnerships outside the CI. Others transferred the CI to another institution, ensuring that the Confucius Institute did not really close but changed locations. Some universities engaged in several of these strategies at once.

The report tracked information for 75 of the 104 CIs that closed in the US. Of the 75, 28 replaced the CI with a similar programme, and another 12 sought to replace it, while 58 maintained relationships with their Chinese partner universities.

Many created something substantially similar to a Confucius Institute under a different name, as did Georgia State University, the College of William and Mary, Michigan State University and Northern State University.

The College of William and Mary replaced its CI with the W&M-BNU Collaborative Partnership in partnership with Beijing Normal University, its former CI partner. One day after the CI closed on 30 June 2021, the two universities signed a new ‘sister university’ agreement establishing the programme. 

Chinese universities have also proposed programmes similar to Confucius Institutes but funded by the Chinese university itself. For example, Jinlin Li, president of South-Central University for Nationalities (SCUN), wrote to University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chancellor Dennis J Shields, suggesting that “we work together on a university level to continue to offer Chinese language credit courses and Chinese Kungfu programmes”. He added that “SCUN will gladly continue funding this operation”. 

Replacing with another university programme

On being informed of CI closures, responses from Hanban “were initially characterised by shock and indignation, then by mere regret, and finally by well-coordinated efforts to woo colleges and universities into new partnerships”, the report said. 

Richard Benson, president of the University of Texas at Dallas, wrote in a letter cited by the report: “We will be arranging a new bilateral agreement with Southeast University to continue our mutually beneficial engagements.”

Benson went on to describe the “newly created UT Dallas Centre for Chinese Studies” which would house many of the programmes the Confucius Institute once ran – the former director of the Confucius Institute heads this new centre. 

Twenty-three universities said they would replace the Confucius Institute with their own, in-house programmes. However, 13 of these also said the CI would be replaced by a new partnership with a Chinese entity.

Ten of the 23 institutions announced plans to develop their own replacement programmes. Yet, at least four – University of Idaho, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Montana and Purdue University – did in fact operate these programmes in partnership with their former CI partner. 

Six universities–- Pfeiffer University, San Diego State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Arizona, the University of Washington and Western Kentucky University – said they intended to find a new home for the CI by transferring it elsewhere.

Reasons for winding down CIs

Most of the criticisms surrounding Confucius Institutes involve threats to national security, infringements of academic freedom, and the problem of censorship. But these are rarely the reasons colleges and universities give when they announce plans to close a Confucius Institute. The report found the most frequently cited reasons are the development of alternative partnerships with China, and changes in US public policy.

Only five of 104 institutions cited concerns regarding the Chinese government’s relationship to Confucius Institutes ¬– and two of these five proclaimed that all national alarm was due to the mismanagement of Confucius Institutes by other universities.

Citing letters that the institutions sent to the Chinese government or their Chinese partner university; letters sent to a US government body, internal announcements to the staff, faculty and campus community; and statements published on the institutions’ own websites or published by the media, the report found that replacing the Confucius Institute with a new Chinese partnership was the most popular reason given for closure, while the second most popular was US policy. Many gave no reason whatsoever. 

Of the 33 colleges and universities that cite public policy as a reason for the Confucius Institute’s closure, 19 cite the potential loss of federal funds, and 11 specifically cite the National Defense Authorization Act, which barred certain grants from the Department of Defense to colleges and universities with Confucius Institutes. Three universities cited warnings they received from the US State Department. 

Despite widespread public concern about the Chinese government’s ulterior motives for supporting Confucius Institutes, only five universities referenced these concerns. Two laid out possible problems with Chinese government interference but concluded this had not been the case at their university.

University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chancellor Dennis J Shields in a letter to CLEC and CIEF said: “Over the past two years, the United States of America and its Department of State have raised serious concerns as to the scope of the People’s Republic of China and Beijing’s influence over higher education institutions, both nationally and globally…

“Unfortunately, due to these recent and continued concerns raised by the United States federal government and public officials as well as the recently enacted legislation, I have reached the difficult decision to end the UW-Platteville Confucius Institute.” 

Shields stressed though, that the University of Wisconsin had good experiences with Hanban.

Seven institutions said the Confucius Institute attracted too few students and others cited scarcity of funds as reasons for closure.

Source: Confucius Institutes reappear under new names – Report

Federally funded Canadian group used by China to spread propaganda on Uyghurs: report

Need for greater due diligence in funding and in all areas:

Two Canadian community organizations — one of which has received thousands of dollars in federal funding — are prime examples of how the Chinese government has tried to covertly shape opinions worldwide about human rights abuses in Xinjiang province, says a new report by Australian academics.

A profile of the Xinjiang Association of Canada and the Ontario-based Council of Newcomer Organizations — which was co-founded by a former Liberal MP — forms one of four case studies in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Cultivating Friendly Forces report.

The two groups and their leaders have consistently promoted Beijing’s talking points on the region in the face of growing evidence of mass human rights abuses against Xinjiang’s Muslim populations, says the working paper by James Leibold, a professor at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, and Lin Li.

The groups have been supported by China’s diplomatic missions in Canada, while at least two of their directors were invited to attend events in China as privileged “overseas Chinese” leaders, says the report, based mostly on Chinese-language media reports and other open source material from the internet.

“The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) uses these organs as conduits for the spread of propaganda about the ‘harmony, prosperity and happiness’ of people in Xinjiang while deflecting and denying international criticism of its well-documented human rights abuses in the region,” the analysis charges.

Such groups “can sow distrust and fear in the community, mislead politicians, journalists and the public, influence government policies, cloud our assessment of the situation in Xinjiang and disguise the CCP’s interference in foreign countries.”

The report urges more efforts by the media, academia and government to expose the Chinese government’s global interference, including with the use of effective foreign-influence registries.

The National Post contacted leaders of the two groups and China’s Ottawa embassy for comment on the report but had not received a response by deadline.

The report came as no surprise to Mehmet Tohti, head of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project.

The Chinese influence campaign against the Uyghur diaspora has several facets, including intimidation of community members and “hostage taking” like the 2006 imprisonment of Canadian activist Huseyin Celil, as well as “disseminating disinformation and fake narratives,” he said by email.

“We may see more vigorous moves from China by awakening its sleeper cells in Canada and around the world to promote its narrative on Uyghur genocide and forced labour,” Tohti added.

Human rights organizations, media outlets and the United Nations have revealed large-scale repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, including forced labour, mass sterilization and re-education camps believed to hold more than a million people.

The Canadian parliament, the U.S. and other countries have accused China of genocide, though Beijing denies the charges and insists it is simply bringing peace to a region afflicted by unrest and terrorism.

The report documents how China is trying to counter the charges, partly through the use of local community groups that purport to represent immigrants from Xinjiang or that simply promote Beijing’s line on the issue. It says the effort is spearheaded by the United Front Work Department, a party branch dedicated to extending China’s influence abroad and greatly expanded in recent years.

The 12-year-old Xinjiang Association of Canada is a good example of ties between such groups and China’s colonizing efforts in the region, says the report.

It’s made up mostly of Han Chinese — the country’s dominant group — and its launch was attended by the consul general and other Chinese diplomats in Toronto. The group invites local politicians and consular officials to events celebrating Uyghur and Han festivals, “then uses these public events to present a harmonious picture of Xinjiang and its diasporic population,” the working paper says.

Founding president Zhu Jiang’s parents migrated to Xinjiang from China proper as part of efforts to change its ethnic make-up and he joined the People’s Liberation Army at age 15. The report includes a photograph of Zhu in PLA uniform while a player for the Xinjiang Military Command.

He immigrated to Canada in 2001 and in 2019 was invited by the United Front Work Department in Xinjiang and China’s Toronto consulate to attend the lavish celebrations of the People’s Republic’s 70th anniversary. One local news outlet quoted him as saying the event’s military parade made him realize how much he “loved the motherland,” the National Post reported at the time.

Zhu has consistently defended China’s actions in the region, with state-run China News quoting him in 2019 as criticizing the U.S. House of Representatives’ Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act.

Zhu was also for a time head of the Council of Newcomer Organizations, an umbrella group that included his Xinjiang association. As also reported previously by the Post, the council issued a statement last year decrying the House of Commons’ Xinjiang genocide motion, saying it was based on “unsubstantiated rumours.”

“The council’s statement was then reported by China’s state media to prove that members of the Chinese diaspora disagree with the Canadian parliament’s decision,” noted the report.

By last year, the council had received at least $160,000 in grants from various federal government departments, the most recent for an elder-abuse program.

Zhu was succeeded as head of the newcomer council by Han Jialing, who also has publicly documented ties to Beijing. As Zhu was at the anniversary celebrations in 2019, Han was “class captain” of a “carefully selected” group of overseas Chinese leaders invited to a seminar in China on the nation’s “great achievements” and thoughts of President Xi Jinping.

Leibold acknowledged in an interview that China is not alone in trying to shape opinion abroad. But its influence campaign differs from others in sheer scale — it has more diplomats registered in Canada than any nation other than the U.S. and more missions globally than anyone else — as well as the co-opting of community groups and the fact its efforts are largely covert, he said.

“What distinguishes it … is the tendency to operate in the shadows: the clandestine work that occurs behind the scenes, out of the public eye,” said the politics professor. “It’s … really quite different than what we see amongst free and democratic societies.”

Australian and New Zealand scholars such as Leibold have largely dominated academic attempts to investigate Beijing’s foreign influence efforts. But the work is becoming increasingly difficult as much of the information that was once freely available online is falling off the internet, he said. Indeed, the Council of Newcomer’s Organizations’ extensive website has disappeared.

And the research comes at a personal cost, said Leibold.

He said he’s been denied visas to visit China — the main subject of his research — while Li is “very worried” about possible retaliation against her friends and relatives in China.

Source: Federally funded Canadian group used by China to spread propaganda on Uyghurs: report 

Beijing may have tried to discourage Canadians from voting Conservative: federal unit

Not surprising:

A federal research unit detected what might be a Chinese Communist Party information operation that aimed to discourage Canadians of Chinese heritage from voting for the Conservatives in the last federal election.

The Sept. 13, 2021, analysis by Rapid Response Mechanism Canada, which tracks foreign interference, says researchers observed Communist Party media accounts on Chinese social media platform Douyin widely sharing a narrative that the Conservatives would all but sever diplomatic relations with Beijing.

The report, obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act, was prepared just a week before Canadians went to the polls.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals emerged from the Sept. 20 national ballot with a renewed minority mandate, while the Conservatives, led by Erin O’Toole, formed the official Opposition.

O’Toole, who is no longer leader, claimed on a podcast recorded this month that the Conservatives lost eight or nine seats to foreign interference from China.

Rapid Response Mechanism Canada, based at Global Affairs Canada, produces open data analysis to chart trends, strategies and tactics in foreign interference.

Its work supports the G7 RRM, an initiative to strengthen co-ordination to identify and respond to threats to the major industrial democracies.

The analysis of messaging about the Conservative party was part of RRM Canada’s effort to monitor the digital information environment for signs of foreign state-sponsored information manipulation in the general election.

Conservative MP Michael Chong, the party’s foreign affairs critic, said in an interview the analysis is “another piece of evidence that the Communist leadership in Beijing interfered in the last general election by spreading disinformation.”

RRM Canada says it manually reviewed Chinese social media platforms including WeChat, Douyin, Weibo, Xigua and Bilibili, and conducted open-source forensic digital analysis using website archives, social listening tools, and cross-platform social media ranking tools.

The analysts first noticed the narrative about the Conservatives in two articles published Sept. 8 by the Global Times, a state-owned media tabloid.

RRM Canada believes the Global Times coverage was prompted by a story in the Ottawa-based Hill Times newspaper that examined Canadian parties’ positions on Canada-China relations. The analysis says it is likely that the Global Times was the first Chinese publication to pick up on the Ottawa publication’s content, with its two articles getting over 100,000 page views apiece.

RRM Canada notes the timing coincided with the first federal leaders’ debate and increasingly close poll numbers. Similar pieces published by major Canadian media outlets earlier in September, as well as the Conservative party platform released in August, elicited no response from state-controlled media in China, the analysis says.

Several popular Canada-focused WeChat news accounts began engaging with the Global Times narrative on Sept. 9, copying the content and form without crediting the publication, “obscuring the narrative’s point of origin,” the analysts found.

Accounts also added commentary about the Tories to the articles, such as “Chinese are frightened by the platform,” and questioned whether “Chinese compatriots should support the Conservatives if they use this rhetoric.”

“Unless otherwise credited, WeChat users would not know that the narrative about the Conservatives and O’Toole originated from the Global Times and would assume the articles were original reporting from the Canadian WeChat accounts.”

Many WeChat news accounts that serve Canadians are registered to people in China and despite being well-established news sources, “some may have unclear links” to Chinese Communist Party media groups, the analysis says.

The researchers were “unable to determine whether there is co-ordination between the CCP media that originally promoted the narrative and the popular WeChat news accounts that service Chinese-speaking Canadians that are now amplifying the narrative,” the Sept. 13 analysis cautions.

“RRM Canada is also unable to determine whether there was inauthentic activity that boosted user engagement with the narrative as Chinese social media platforms are completely non-transparent.”

However, Communist Party media accounts on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, published videos that repeated a Sept. 8 Global Times headline, the analysis says. For instance, the Douyin account of Xinhua, China’s state press agency, shared a video saying the Conservative platform mentions China “31 times” and that an “expert” says the party “almost wants to break diplomatic relations with China.”

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment on the RRM Canada analysis.

Among the Conservative platform planks in the election campaign were promises to stand up to Beijing on human rights issues, diversify supply chains to move them away from China, adopt a presumption against allowing Beijing’s state-owned entities to take over Canadian companies, and work toward less global reliance on critical minerals from China.

Chong says it’s clear that proxies were spreading disinformation on behalf of Beijing in the federal election.

“It’s hard to measure whether that was the reason for the loss of some Conservative MPs. But I think we can safely say that it was a contributing factor.”

If Beijing comes to the same conclusion, China “may very well be emboldened to do something much bigger in a future federal election, undermining our democratic process,” Chong said.

Under a federal protocol, there would be a public announcement if a panel of senior bureaucrats determined that an incident — or an accumulation of incidents — threatened Canada’s ability to have a free and fair election. There was no such announcement last year.

At a House of Commons committee meeting early this month, Bill Blair, public safety minister during the election campaign, said while “we’ve all heard anecdotes and various opinions,” he had not directly received “any information from our intelligence services” that provided evidence of foreign interference in the campaign.

Deputy minister Rob Stewart told the meeting there were, “as you would expect,” activities on social media that would constitute disinformation and attempts to influence votes. “There was no threat to the overall integrity of the election.”

The Canadian Election Misinformation Project, which brought together several academic researchers, found Chinese officials and state media commented on the election with an apparent aim to convince Canadians of Chinese origin to vote against the Conservative party in 2021.

“Misleading information and information critical of certain candidates circulated on Chinese-language social media platforms. However, we find no evidence that Chinese interference had a significant impact on the overall election.”

The Conservatives “could have done a better job” of countering such messaging, Chong said. “Clearly we didn’t, and that’s a lesson learned.”

Even so, the federal government needs to actively counter foreign disinformation between election campaigns, Chong said. During campaigns, the government should make analyses from the Rapid Response Mechanism immediately available to inform the public, he added.

Fen Hampson, a professor of international affairs at Carleton University who closely watches China, agrees that more transparency would be beneficial.

He argues for broadening the analytical process, perhaps through creation of a centre that includes non-governmental players, gathers information from various sources and regularly publishes reports about apparent foreign interference.

“That takes it out of the domestic political arena, which is always going to be highly charged.”

Source: Beijing may have tried to discourage Canadians from voting Conservative: federal unit

Canada should rethink relationship with U.S. as democratic ‘backsliding’ worsens: security experts

Not my area of expertise but significant and needed. Hopefully, government and opposition will listen:

Canada’s intelligence community will have to grapple with the growing influence of anti-democratic forces in the United States — including the threat posed by conservative media outlets like Fox News — says a new report from a task force of intelligence experts.

“The United States is and will remain our closest ally, but it could also become a source of threat and instability,” says a newly published report written by a task force of former national security advisers, former Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) directors, ex-deputy ministers, former ambassadors and academics.

Now is the time for the federal government to rethink how it approaches national security, the report concludes.

The authors — some of whom had access to Canada’s most prized secrets and briefed cabinet on emerging threats — say Canada has become complacent in its national security strategies and is not prepared to tackle threats like Russian and Chinese espionage, the “democratic backsliding” in the United States, a rise in cyberattacks and climate change.

Thomas Juneau, co-director of the task force and associate professor at the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, said that while Canada’s right-wing extremism is homegrown, cross-border connections between extremist groups are alarming.

“There are growing transnational ties between right-wing extremists here and in the U.S., the movement of funds, the movement of people, the movement of ideas, the encouragement, the support by media, such as Fox News and other conservative media,” he said.

Convoy was a ‘wakeup call,’ says adviser

“We believe that the threats are quite serious at the moment, that they do impact Canada,” said report co-author Vincent Rigby, who until a few months ago served as the national security adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“We don’t want it to take a crisis for [the] government of Canada to wake up.”

The report he helped write says that one area in need of a policy pivot is Canada’s relationship with the United States.

He pointed to state Sen. Doug Mastriano’s recent win in the Republican primary for governor of Pennsylvania. Mastriano is a well-known proponent of the lie that election fraud caused former president Donald Trump’s loss in 2020.

“There are serious risks of democratic backsliding in the U.S. and at this point, that is not a theoretical risk,” Juneau said.

“So all of that is a serious threat to our sovereignty, to our security, and in some cases, to our democratic institutions … We need to rethink our relationship with the United States.”

The report points to the convoy protest that occupied downtown Ottawa in February and associated blockades in a handful of border towns earlier this winter. What started as a broad protest against COVID-19 restrictions morphed into a even broader rally against government authority itself, with some protesters calling for the overthrow of the elected government.

RCMP said that at the protest site near Coutts, Alta., they seized a cache of weapons; four people now face a charge of conspiracy to murder.

It “should be a wakeup call,” said Rigby.

“We potentially dodged a bullet there. We really did. And we’re hoping that the government and … other levels of government have learned lessons.”

The Canadian protests drew support from politicians in the U.S. and from conservative media outlets, including Fox News, says the report.

“This may not have represented foreign interference in the conventional sense, since it was not the result of actions of a foreign government. But it did represent, arguably, a greater threat to Canadian democracy than the actions of any state other than the United States,” the report says.

“It will be a significant challenge for our national security and intelligence agencies to monitor this threat, since it emanates from the same country that is by far our greatest source of intelligence.”

During the convoy protest, Fox host Tucker Carlson — whose show draws in millions of viewers every night — called Trudeau a “Stalinist dictator” on air and accused him of having “suspended democracy and declared Canada a dictatorship.”

Carlson himself has been under attack recently for pushing the concept of replacement theory — a racist concept that claims white Americans are being deliberately replaced through immigration.

The theory was cited in the manifesto of the 18-year-old man accused in the mass shooting in a predominately Black neighbourhood in Buffalo, N.Y. earlier this month.

The conspiracy theory also has been linked to previous mass shootings, including the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Calls for new national security strategy

“When we think about threats to Canada, we think about the Soviet military threat, we think about al-Qaeda, we think about the rise of China, we think about the war in Ukraine. All of these are true. But so is the rising threat to Canada that the U.S. poses,” said Juneau.

“That’s completely new. That calls for a new way of thinking and new way of managing our relationship with the U.S.”

The conversation with the U.S. doesn’t have be uncomfortable but it does need to happen, said Rigby.

“It certainly would not be couched in a way of, ‘You’re the source of our problems.’ That would not be the conversation. The conversation would be, ‘How can we help each other?'” he said.

“We had those conversations during President Trump’s tenure and business continues. Does it become a little bit more challenging when you have a president like Mr. Trump? Absolutely, without a doubt. But we are still close, close allies.”

It’s why both Rigby and Juneau are hoping the report will spur the government to launch a new national security strategy review — something that hasn’t happened since 2004.

“I know there’s a certain cynicism around producing these strategies … another bulky report that’s going to end up on a shelf and gather dust,” said Rigby.

“But if they’re done properly, they’re done fast and they’re done efficiently and effectively — and our allies have done them — they can work and they’re important.”

The report makes a number of recommendations. It wants a review of CSIS’s enabling legislation, more use of open-source intelligence and efforts to strengthen cyber security. It also urges normally secretive intelligence agencies to be more open with the public by disclosing more intelligence and publishing annual threat assessments.

“There’s a new expanded definition of national security. It’s not your grandparents’ national security,” said Rigby.

“It’s time to step out of the shadows and step up and confront these challenges.”

Source: Canada should rethink relationship with U.S. as democratic ‘backsliding’ worsens: security experts

Feds under fire for deferring decision to declare China’s actions against Uyghurs as genocide

As MPs across the partisan spectrum question why the Canadian government has yet to declare that the Chinese government’s repression of Uyghurs constitutes genocide, Global Affairs says an international court or tribunal must be the one to make the declaration, but international law experts say that’s not the case.

As a state party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, more commonly known as the Genocide Convention, Canada has an obligation to declare a genocide is occurring when one is taking place, say international law experts, and deferring such judgement to an international court is nothing more than an excuse to not act.

MPs on the House Foreign Affairs Committee questioned Global Affairs officials on March 28 as to why the government hasn’t made a declaration of genocide more than a year after the House of Commons voted unanimously to declare that a genocide is being committed by China against its Uyghur population and other Turkic Muslims. The non-binding vote, which passed with 266 votes in favour and none against on Feb. 22, 2021, had the support of all parties, including 87 Liberal MPs. Cabinet members, however, abstained from the vote.

A March 2021 report from the Subcommittee on International Human Rights concluded that China is committing genocide as defined under the Genocide Convention. The report was adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In it, the subcommittee called on the government to declare the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs an act of genocide.

Beijing has long denied that a genocide of Uyghurs is taking place in Xinjiang.

Bloc Québécois MP Stéphane Bergeron (Montarville, Que.), his party’s foreign affairs critic, said in French that Global Affairs has “strangely enough” refused to acknowledge that genocide is taking place.

“It’s as if everything that is obvious for many people, including for Parliamentarians in Canada, was not for Global Affairs,” he said at the committee on March 28, asking what is stopping Canada from recognizing that a genocide is taking place.

Global Affairs official Jennie Chen, executive director for Greater China Policy and Coordination, said a declaration of genocide is one for the government to make, and officials will provide advice to ministers “when that time comes.”

But later in the committee hearing, Global Affairs director general and deputy legal adviser Carolyn Knobel said a “determination of whether a situation constitutes a genocide must be done by a competent international court or a tribunal, bearing in mind the complex legal thresholds that are involved.”

Knobel suggested that finding “specific intent” to commit genocide is “key” to making such a determination. She said without a finding of “specific intent,” breaches of international law would instead amount to crimes against humanity, or war crimes.

The Hill Times asked Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly’s (Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Que.) office whether the government believes that only an international court or tribunal can determine whether a genocide has taken place. A spokesperson for Global Affairs responded on behalf of the minister’s office.

“We have the responsibility to work with others in the international community in ensuring that any allegations of genocide are investigated by an independent international body of legal experts,” spokesperson Christelle Chartrand said in an email, noting that Canada is “deeply disturbed” by reports of human rights violations in Xinjiang.

Chartrand said Canada has “repeatedly” called on Beijing to allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Procedures to have “immediate, unfettered, and meaningful access to Xinjiang.” 

In 2018, the Canadian government recognized Myanmar’s persecution against the Rohingya as an act of genocide through a motion in the House, which was supported by cabinet ministers. No international court or tribunal had made that determination at the time. A case under the Genocide Convention is currently before the International Court of Justice.

Speaking at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 24, Joly said Canada takes allegations of genocide “very seriously, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur region,” noting that was a reason Canada did not send elected officials to the Beijing Olympics in February.

The U.S. government under then-president Donald Trump declared in 2021 that a genocide was taking place in Xinjiang. That determination has been upheld by the Biden administration.

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Hill Times that the government’s delay in recognizing the situation as a genocide is “totally unacceptable.”

He said when the Subcommittee on International Human Rights conducted its study, it heard from many international law experts, including former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, who made the case that nation states that are parties to the Genocide Convention have an obligation to recognize genocide when it is happening and to discharge their obligations under the convention.

“Canada has been failing to live up to its obligations under the Genocide Convention. It is an obfuscation and a denial of our responsibilities for the government to suggest that we shouldn’t act unless or until there is some determination by some to-be-identified international body,” he said. “Fundamentally, Canada’s responsibilities as a state party under the Genocide Convention are clear: it is to recognize and respond to genocide when it has happened, not to wait for somebody else to tell us first.”

Genuis said the government’s lack of determination to date is a decision in itself.

“The effect of continually saying that they are thinking about it is to not act,” he said.

Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi (Pierrefonds-Dollard, Que.), who subbed in at the March 28 committee meeting, told The Hill Times that while he understands why the government wants to wait on an international court to determine whether genocide is taking place, he stands by the subcommittee’s designation and his support for the House motion to recognize genocide.

“I believe that where we should be going as a country is to recognize that genocide is occurring,” he said, noting it would be “good” if the Canadian government follows the U.S. government’s lead.

Zuberi said in their testimony, Global Affairs officials recognized that hundreds of thousands of children are being separated from families, which he said is “one of the key elements of genocide.”

“So, I’m hopeful that we will land there as a country,” he said, adding that each country should make its own legal determination of whether a genocide is taking place. “Our determination doesn’t necessarily rest on those international [bodies] to determine genocide is in fact occurring.”

In the meantime, he said more can be done to prevent goods made with forced labour from entering the Canadian market.

Experts dispute the government’s position that it’s up to international courts and tribunals to determine whether a situation is genocide.

“[The government doesn’t] want to act. Their position is ‘we don’t know—we can’t really say, we’re not really sure, and therefore business as unusual. We can trade [and] and we can do all sorts of things.’ They’re avoiding their obligation,” said John Packer, the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre director.

“The Genocide Convention actually prescribes that states are supposed to act to prevent,” he said, noting that includes cases where there is an active genocide, or a risk of genocide. “If the argument of the government is that we can’t do anything until there’s a determination by the court of law, that’s post facto. That means you never have prevention. … ‘Never again’ becomes ‘forever always,’ because you’ve missed the whole raison d’etre of the thing.”

Packer said there is no provision or law that dictates that an international court must be the body to declare whether a genocide is taking place, and said a state must make that determination itself before bringing an action before an international court.

“In order to bring a case, you must allege a case, and to allege a case in international law means that you must determine that there is a breach,” he said.

International human rights lawyer Sarah Teich, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, echoed Packer, saying the Canadian government has an obligation to act.

“If you look at the Genocide Convention, nowhere does it say that that an international court must declare genocide before it can do anything,” she said, noting that Canada, as a state party of the convention, has treaty obligations to punish genocide.

If Canada waits on international courts to declare a situation to be genocide, it would probably be in breach of its obligations, Teich said, adding that it’s “long overdue” for Canada to declare the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs as genocide.

“If Canada is so concerned about wanting it to come from an international court, then Canada should refer the situation to an international court and start taking those steps. But we don’t actually see that happening,” she said. “This is another indicator that really this is kind of just an excuse.”

Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, said that by citing the need for an international court determination, the Canadian government is not upholding its “international legal responsibility to prevent genocide, and prosecute those responsible for genocide and protect the vulnerable victims of genocide.”

Tohti said it’s “troubling” that the government is still focused on pushing for an independent investigation, as Beijing hasn’t allowed unfettered access to Xinjiang. He said he has little optimism for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s visit to China in May.

“The Chinese government has made clear to the high commissioner that there is no unfettered access, meaning she cannot go wherever she wants to go. She cannot visit the places she wants to visit. And she cannot talk with the people she wants to talk,” he said.

Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi (Willowdale, Ont.), chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, asked Global Affairs officials at the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week why a declaration of genocide has taken so long after the House voted in favour of recognizing the situation as genocide.

In her testimony, Chen said the government is looking forward to Bachelet’s visit to China. “What’s been important for us is it has been an independent investigation by international experts. This has long been our position for many years now,” she said.

Bergeron called Canada’s stance “bipolar,” while Genuis said there is a “clear divergence between the legislative branch and the executive” in declaring whether a genocide is taking place.

“It is frustrating for me, it’s frustrating for Liberal MPs, and it’s frustrating for Canadians because Canadians elect Members of Parliament. They don’t elect the executive, but the legislative branch is supposed to hold the executive accountable for the steps they’re taking and the executive has been able to get away with inaction,” he said.

nmoss

Source: Feds under fire for deferring decision to declare China’s actions against Uyghurs as genocide

China tightens restrictions and bars scholars from international conferences

Further restrictions of note:

The international conference was supposed to gather some of the most promising and most established Asia studies scholars from across the world in lush Honolulu.

Instead, at least five Chinese scholars based in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) were prevented from attending virtual events via Zoom, according to four people with direct knowledge of the matter.

They said Chinese security officers and education officials directly intervened, citing education regulations published during a global coronavirus pandemic which require all Chinese scholars to receive university permission to attend any international event in-person or online.

“After years of encouraging and funding PRC scholars to participate internationally, the intensifying controls of recent years are now full-scale, and academic work, at least on China, is to be quarantined from the world,” saidJames Millward, a history professor at Georgetown University who attended the conference. “The doors have slammed shut fast.”

The conference, which ended last weekend, was an annual gathering organized by the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), one of the largest membership-based organizations in the field. For emerging scholars as well as more senior academics, the conference is an opportunity to network and to hear the latest research on Asian countries across a variety of disciplines.

Because of the ongoing COVID pandemic, AAS decided this year to hold a mix of in-person events and online-only panels.

In one case, a group of police officers visited the home of a scholar in China after they had presented their research paper to an online Zoom panel earlier in the week, questioning the scholar for hours, in part because they considered the title of the paper “incorrect.”

“It was deeply frightening,” said one academic who attended the panel but requested anonymity to protect the identity of the scholar involved.

NPR reviewed the paper but is not publishing its title or subject to protect the identity of the writer. The paper did not touch on subjects which Chinese authorities normally consider sensitive, such as human rights, Tibet, Xinjiang or Hong Kong.

Chinese scholars on a separate virtual panel were also told by Chinese university administrators to cancel their presentations. Eventually, they emailed the other attendees to withdraw from the panel due to “medical reasons” but hoped to partake in AAS events again “in less sensitive times,” according to two people with direct knowledge of the incident.

“Topics that have seemingly been considered nonpolitical are now being yanked or deemed not permissible to be exchanging with international colleagues,” said another academic who attended the panel who also did not want to be named so as not to identify the Chinese scholars impacted.

Strict COVID prevention policies had already stymied the volume of intellectual exchanges between the PRC and the rest of the world. Those who study China have found themselves isolated by border closures that have made travel to and from China nearly impossible, rendering archives and field sites in China inaccessible for the last two years and counting.

Since 2016, China’s education ministry has required its academics to seek university approval for all overseas trips and collaborations. In September 2020, universities began applying these rules for online events held by international organizations, as well, though such rules had not been extensively enforced until now.

Academics say these controls will further deplete the already-sparse exchanges between China and the rest of the world while hobbling the careers of young Chinese scholars.

“We have already been anxious, because for those of us in modern China studies, it’s been two years with no end in sight about when we might be able to return to the archives,” said a third academic who went to the AAS conference. “You keep thinking maybe things will get better, so after the [Winter] Olympics, after [October’s Chinese Communist] Party Congress, there will be a loosening of restrictions, but unfortunately it continues to worsen.”

The AAS said it was aware some PRC-based scholars were prevented from attending and now is trying to ascertain exactly how many scholars were impacted. “The AAS firmly supports the right of scholars worldwide to take part in the free exchange of ideas and research through conferences and other forms of academic cooperation,” the association said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday.

AAS has previously come under heightened scrutiny within China. In March 2021, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sanctioned a member of one of AAS’ governing councils because of her research examining Chinese state policy in the region of Xinjiang, where authorities had detained hundreds of thousands of mostly ethnic Uyghurs. The academic, Joanne Smith Finley, had organized two panels on Xinjiang for the annual AAS conference just days earlier.

Source: China tightens restrictions and bars scholars from international conferences