Douglas Todd: Over-reliance on students from India and China sparks Ottawa reaction

More on the government’s efforts to diversity source country of students (Trudeau government outlines five-year, $148-million plan to attract more foreign students to Canadian universities):

Amid warnings that universities are relying too much on the high tuition fees paid by foreign students, Justin Trudeau’s government has promised to do something about how more than half of the 572,000 international students in Canada hail from China and India.

The Liberal government has announced a new international-student strategy two months before the October election, amidst rising diplomatic tensions and opinion polls showing 90 per cent of Canadians have negative impressions of the government of the People’s Republic of China.

The federal Liberals, who have roughly doubled the number of foreign students in Canada since being elected in 2015, are pledging in carefully worded announcements they intend to adjust the current international demographic ratio, which sees more than half of offshore students coming from China (143,000) and increasingly India (173,000).

A University of Sydney, Australia, professor warned this month that post-secondary institutions in his country and elsewhere risk “catastrophic” financial shortfalls by relying so heavily on students from China, who make up about 40 per cent of the total in that country. One-fifth of the University of Sydney’s budget, for instance, depends on the cohort from China, says Salvatore Babones.

Since Canada and Australia are two of the world’s most sought-after destinations for international students from China, Babones is not surprised the Trudeau government is promising to change the foreign-student ratio by spending $30 million to recruit more young people from countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Ukraine, France and Turkey.

“As in Australia, these marketing plans are part of a ‘diversification strategy’ intended to dilute the risk that an adverse event — for example, a suspension in the convertibility of the yuan or a major recession in India — that might suddenly result in a revenue shortfall at universities,” Babones said by email.

“When universities and governments think of international students as a revenue source, these kinds of perverse policies start to seem natural. The proper role of international students is to diversify and enrich campus culture, not to support universities with their tuition money.”

Babones’s report, titled The China Student Boom and the Risk it Poses to Australian Universities, does not focus on how various political tensions could also reduce the number of students from mostly well-off Chinese families who head to English-language schools.

However, an overwhelming majority of Canadians, according to recent polls by Nanos and others, increasingly don’t trust China’s leaders, who in turn, in the midst of a trade war with the U.S. and Canada, are issuing various warnings against their citizens travelling to North America. Some politicians in India, in addition, are also worrying about a student brain drain to Canada.

Stresses are also escalating on some North American campuses because of a flurry of news reports maintaining that some students from China are attempting to intimidate people with roots in either Tibet or protest-filled Hong Kong.

In B.C., Chinese nationals comprise about 40 per cent of the 153,000 foreign students at all levels in the province, most of whom are in Metro Vancouver.

University of B.C. officials confirmed Friday that students from China make up by far their largest international cohort. In the recent school year, UBC enrolled 6,281 students with Chinese citizenship, taking in $184 million from their fees, which are three to four times higher than that of domestic students.

That adds up to 44 per cent of the $414 million collected from all of the 17,200 foreign students at UBC, which has annual revenues of $2.7 billion. Asked if the number of applicants from China is declining, a UBC official said there was sharp growth up to 2019, but that “according to global forecasting trends, it’s possible this growth will slow in future years for a variety of reasons.”

Across the city at Simon Fraser University, officials provided data showing the institution’s 3,078 students from China make up 46 per cent of all international students — who in total paid $126 million in fees in the 2018-19 school year. That is 16 per cent of SFU’s annual revenues.

“We are not over-reliant on international tuition, but we do carefully monitor the situation,” said a senior director of student services at SFU, Leanne Dalton.

Despite the financial vulnerabilities associated with Canadian educational institutions leaning on offshore nationals from China, India and elsewhere, the federal Liberal government has made welcoming more foreign students a major theme in its election campaign.

In addition to saying it intends to recruit more students from beyond India and China, Liberal cabinet ministers toured the country in August to expound on a series of news announcements that foreign students pump $21.6 billion into the economy and “support almost 170,000 jobs for Canada’s middle class.”

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen upped the emphasis on the issue by maintaining the total number of foreign students is even higher than 572,000, the figure most often cited in government documents.

“In 2018, more than 721,000 international students studied in Canada,” Hussen claimed in August. The immigration minister’s much larger foreign-student totals surprised and perplexed educational officials contacted by Postmedia, including specialists at the Canadian Bureau for International Education.

If Hussen’s announced new total is accurate, it means that since 2014, when 330,000 international students were in the country, the number has jumped by 391,000. And he is looking beyond China and India to bring in more to boost the GDP.

Source: Douglas Todd: Over-reliance on students from India and China sparks Ottawa reaction

Vancouver broadcaster resigns after outcry over Hong Kong remarks

Public pressure in action:

An on-air columnist at Vancouver’s most-listened-to Chinese radio station has resigned after making controversial remarks about the protests in Hong Kong, suggesting pro-democracy demonstrators were partly responsible for a violent incident last month.

The remarks last week by Thomas Leung prompted an outcry from members of Vancouver’s sizeable Hong Kong expatriate community. In the opinion piece on Fairchild Radio, Mr. Leung questioned the innocence of some Hong Kong protesters, who were attacked by a mob of suspected triad gangsters.

Mr. Leung called the July 21 attack “a fight between black and white.”

He was referring to protesters, who usually wear black, and the gang of white-shirted men armed with metal rods and wooden poles who beat up anti-government protesters and others inside a subway station in the Yuen Long neighbourhood, injuring about 45 people, including journalists and a legislator.

In his commentary, which has since been removed online by Fairchild but still exists on other websites, Mr. Leung suggests some pro-democracy protesters, brought by a Democratic lawmaker, provoked those in the white shirts.

The remarks, aired through Fairchild Radio’s Cantonese channel AM 1470 last Wednesday, drew huge backlash online. Hong Kongers and Canadians who have ties to Hong Kong condemned Mr. Leung for twisting the facts and called his comments “false.”

They also encouraged each other to complain to the radio station and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), a self-governing regulatory body for Canada’s private broadcasters. According to a note posted on CBSC’s website, the organization has received a large number of complaints about comments made on the News Talk program, which exceeded the CBSC’s technical processing capacities.

Two days after the incident, Fairchild radio announced Mr. Leung’s resignation through a Facebook post.

“Due to personal reasons, Dr. Thomas Leung has submitted his resignation to Fairchild Radio as of August 22, and has left the ‘News Talk’ program on AM 1470 with immediate effect.”

Travena Lee, news director at Fairchild Radio, said Tuesday the station has no further comment.

Soon after Fairchild’s announcement, Mr. Leung also posted a statement on his public Facebook page, saying what he said in the program were “comments” rather than “news.”

“In my original commentary, I first pointed out that it was wrong for the white-clad men dashing to the subway station and beat people. I also pointed out that, the confrontation between two sides eventually became fights, based upon different videos and reporting from that day,” Mr. Leung said in the post.

He added that different editing of videos from the Yuen Long attack may lead to different opinions.

However, he said, according to various videos, “[I] still saw the clips that both sides fought each other and that’s why I called it the fight between black and white.”

Hong Kong people have called for an investigation of the mob attack. And Mr. Leung stated he too welcomed the investigation, and will apologize if it can be proven that protesters didn’t do anything to provoke the violent clashes.

Mr. Leung is also the president of a non-profit organization called the Culture Regeneration Research Society. A staff member with the organization said Mr. Leung was not available for an interview on Tuesday.

Leo Shin, associate professor of history and Asian studies at University of British Columbia, said as a commentator, Mr. Leung is entitled to his views. But he noted Mr. Leung’s opinion isn’t widely shared.

“That observation on his part is not in accordance to what most people [saw] who were there, or who have viewed the footage either online or through TV.”

Prof. Shin said the Yuen Long incident was a “watershed moment” in the protests, which provoked outrage among Hong Kongers not only because of the attack, but also because of the slow response from Hong Kong police.

Source: Vancouver broadcaster resigns after outcry over Hong Kong remarks

Hong Kong: Split emerges in Vancouver’s Chinese-Canadian community amid protests

Ongoing:

Images of police using rubber bullets and tear gas against protesters in Hong Kong in early June spurred Joel Wan to pick up the phone and call the United Nations human rights office from his home in Vancouver.

“It was 3 a.m. and I was watching live on my computer. I can’t just sit there and watch, so I have to report this somewhere immediately,” recalled Wan, who is 18 and was born in Hong Kong.

Wan called the actions of police in Hong Kong a “trigger” for him, although he was already concerned about a proposed extradition bill that sparked the ongoing mass protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The bill, which has since been suspended, would have allowed certain suspects to be extradited to mainland China to face charges, a move Wan and others in Canada view as a blow to Hong Kong’s legal independence.

In response, Wan helped form a group called Vancouver Hong Kong Political Activists, which aims to shed light on what he sees as the erosion of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong.

“When I’m enjoying the freedom and human rights in Canada, and myself being a part of Hong Kong identity, I have a greater responsibility to speak up for the people when they can’t,” said Wan in a recent interview.

“I decided to step up to let Canadians hear what we’re saying.”

Earlier this month, the political climate in Hong Kong spilled into the streets of Vancouver as an event organized by Wan’s group sparked a counter-rally by supporters of China’s central government and the Hong Kong police.

As many as 300,000 Canadians live in Hong Kong, according to the Asia Pacific Foundation, and more than 200,000 people living in Canada were born in Hong Kong.

Members of the Chinese-Canadian community in the Lower Mainland say the question of how tensions are playing out in the region is a complicated one.

The extradition bill has been suspended, but protesters want it off the legislative table altogether. The movement’s demands have also expanded to include universal suffrage when electing Hong Kong’s leaders, amnesty for protesters who have been arrested and an independent investigation into the use of force by Hong Kong police.

Wan supports the Hong Kong activists’ goals.

“It’s not just the amendment of the bill,” he said. “It’s because we can’t vote for a government that serves us truly.”

The United Nations has also released a statement on behalf of its high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, indicating there was “credible evidence” of Hong Kong law enforcement officials using measures “prohibited by international norms and standards.” Bachelet condemned any form of violence, calling on protesters to “express their views in a peaceful way” and urging Hong Kong authorities to investigate police actions immediately.

It was in hopes of raising awareness about events in Hong Kong that Wan said his group planned to hand out flyers at a transit station near Vancouver’s city hall on Aug. 17.

But on that day, Wan found himself in the centre of duelling rallies, a reflection of tensions between pro-democracy protesters and those who are aligned with Beijing and law enforcement in Hong Kong.

“I didn’t expect there would be a stand-off,” said Wan, who donned a mask for the first time that day, concealing his face after becoming aware of threatening messages shared on WeChat, a Chinese social media and mobile payment app.

Wan believes many of those at the counter-rally were spurred on by the Chinese consulate, which denied any involvement in a statement.

“It is totally understandable and reasonable for local overseas Chinese to express indignation and opposition against words and deeds that attempt to separate China and smear its image,” the consulate said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“Some western media have repeatedly targeted at Chinese government and its diplomatic missions overseas by misleading implications and groundless accusations, to which we firmly oppose.”

Vancouver police say protests on Aug. 17 and 18 were of comparable size, attracting about 400 people evenly split between the two sides. Const. Steve Addison said police are aware of what is being said on social media and they are monitoring to determine risk levels, as they do for any demonstration. No other action has been taken by police, he said.

Similar protests were also held that weekend in Toronto.

At the first rally in Vancouver, those sympathetic to the Chinese government chanted “One China,” while the pro-democracy supporters chanted “two systems.”

Wan said he and his group are not calling for Hong Kong’s independence, but they do want the “one country, two systems” agreement upheld, a reference to the implementation of the governance structure that was brought in when Hong Kong was reunified with China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule.

“The two systems, for Hong Kongers, they feel have been eroded, step by step,” said Josephine Chiu-Duke, a professor in the department of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia and a specialist in Chinese intellectual history.

Chiu-Duke considers the latest round of demonstrations to be an extension of the ongoing struggle to defend the rights promised to Hong Kong residents when the region became semi-autonomous more than 20 years ago.

Indeed, Wan said, “They broke their promise.”

Most people in the pro-democracy camp believe the erosion is backed by the Beijing government to gradually unify the two systems, Chiu-Duke noted.

“They want the Beijing government to honour their promise to Hong Kong’s people (and) let the rule of law rule Hong Kong,” she said, adding that many people in the Lower Mainland with roots in Hong Kong want to let the pro-democracy protesters know they’re not alone.

As for the crowds near city hall earlier this month, Chiu-Duke said it’s hard to pin down why the demonstrators supporting the Chinese government showed up.

“There are rumours they were basically organized by the Chinese consulate,” said Chiu-Duke, pointing to reports that a spokesman for China’s foreign affairs ministry stated the government hopes “overseas Chinese can express their patriotism in a rational way.”

At the rally, Nicholas Wang said he helped organize the “One China” group and that he supports the police in Hong Kong.

“Our idea is just against violence, that’s the most important thing,” said Wang, who is from mainland China and attributes violent clashes in Hong Kong to the protesters.

Wang acknowledged that those who supported the protesters in Hong Kong at the rally in Vancouver were also opposed to violence.

“It’s perfect that they support the same idea with us,” Wang said in an interview.

But he believes they are only talking about one side of the story.

“I think you can find more videos of more younger people creating chaos there instead of police doing that,” said Wang, adding that if police didn’t carry out their duties, Hong Kong would degenerate into chaos.

Chinese exchange student Erika Zhao also blamed violence on the protesters and said journalists are only focusing on the actions of the police.

“It’s quite biased news,” she said.

Despite the tense face-off in Vancouver, Joel Wan said he is on good terms with friends who disagree with him.

“Most of the mainland (Chinese) people I encounter are willing to engage into our conversation,” said Wan. “One of my friends, he entirely believed we are rioters and we are messing up the city. After explanation, we still stand strong in our opinions, but we established agreement (and) understanding (on) why each other thinks like that.”

Most people Wan knows are also focused on life in Vancouver and aren’t as involved with what’s happening in Hong Kong, he said.

It’s a sentiment shared by Calvin Lam, 23, who was born in Vancouver and raised in Hong Kong before returning to B.C. as a university student.

Lam was on vacation in Hong Kong in early June when the protests began to escalate.

He said he was sympathetic to their cause until Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, announced the suspension of the extradition bill. At that point, Lam said the protesters achieved their objective and the rest of their demands are unrealistic.

He said he’s concerned that ongoing mass protests, altercations between protesters and police, destruction of property and disruptions in Hong Kong’s airport and transit systems are damaging Hong Kong’s economy and reputation.

But, like Wan, Lam said he approaches friends who disagree with him amicably.

“They have their stance, I understand it. I am careful in what I say to them. I never use any personal attacks,” said Lam, in reference to derogatory name-calling that has been levelled online at pro-democracy protesters.

“We just know this issue is happening in Hong Kong and then I’m psychologically or emotionally affected because I see Hong Kong as my homeland. But I don’t think any other areas of my life are affected.”

Source: Hong Kong: Split emerges in Vancouver’s Chinese-Canadian community amid protests

WeChat not included in government’s discussions with social media on protecting election

Seems like an oversight given the many signs of Chinese government interference with Chinese Canadians:

The office of Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould chose not to include a popular Chinese-language app in discussions it had with major social media platforms about protecting the upcoming federal election.

Gould unveiled her government’s plan to protect the upcoming federal election from interference at a press conference in January. One aspect of the four-pronged plan was entrusting social media platforms “to act.” In a practical sense, the government has asked platforms to ensure they’re not being exploited to spread disinformation and that they adhere to the new election laws introduced by the Liberals in Bill C-76, which pertain to them.

“As the Minister has said, we expect social media platforms to take concrete actions to help safeguard this fall’s election by promoting transparency, authenticity and integrity on their platforms,” Meg Jacques, spokesperson for Gould, told iPolitics in an email last week.

In the lead up to the election, the government has had back-and-forth dialogue with the companies that operate many of the major platforms. In letters dated June 21 and obtained by iPolitics through an access to information request, Gould wrote to companies including Snap Inc. (which owns Snapchat), Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook, reiterating her expectation that they “ensure the 2019 election is free and fair.”

Gould has also previously said she had been in touch with Reddit and Pinterest. She never reached out to WeChat.

Asked for a reason why her office didn’t communicate with WeChat like it did with others, Jacques said that the minister’s office chose to work with major social media platforms that had “an established corporate presence in Canada.”

WeChat does not have company offices in Canada. Reddit does not list an office in Canada on its website, either.

In the June 21 letters, Gould requested each of the companies to affirm their commitment to the “Canada Declaration on Electoral Integrity Online.” Announced by Gould about a month earlier in the House of Commons, the declaration includes a dozen measures for platforms to follow to ensure democratic precesses like the election aren’t meddled with.

Gould also wrote to the companies asking that they respond with a description of the actions they’ll be taking during the writ and newly introduced pre-writ period. The letters also outline to the companies who in each of the government’s law enforcement bodies are their point people in cases where they may identify potential nefarious actors attempting to exploit their platforms.

WeChat

WeChat is a Chinese messaging, social media and e-commerce app. It’s widely used by Chinese speakers around the world, with approximately 1.1 billion monthly active users. By comparison, Facebook reported 2.7 billion monthly users across its apps — which include Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram and, of course, Facebook — during the first quarter of this year.

WeChat is a popular platform for Chinese-language news, but the company has been previously criticized for censoring certain news. In December, StarMetro Vancouver reported that the app had been blocking stories about Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s bail hearing, before once again allowing readers access to stories once she was released on bail.

The recent 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre was another instance when pictures and keywords related to an event were kept off WeChat.

The app was thrust into the Canadian political spotlight earlier this year because of an incident during the Burnaby South byelection. Liberal Party candidate Karen Wang was the source of a controversy for posting on the app, urging voters to support her because she was Chinese, instead of NDP Leader and byelection candidate Jagmeet Singh, who she described as being “of Indian descent.” Wang resigned as the Liberal candidate shortly after.

Earlier this year, all MPs were warned to be wary about conducting official business on WeChat because of concerns that the House of Commons cybersecurity team had with the app.

At that time, iPolitics reached out to the offices of all MPs who represented ridings where the Chinese population made up at least 30 per cent of the riding’s total community, according to data collected in the 2016 census. Three MPs, Liberal Jean Yip and Conservatives Alice Wong and Bob Saroya, said at that time they used or had used the app in the past, in their role as a federal representative. Yip and Wong both planned to continue using the app. Each of the MPs described using it similarly to how they used other social media platforms.

iPolitics attempted to contact WeChat for this story by reaching out through multiple points of contact. The company did not respond.

Jacques said government officials “continue” to communicate with social media platforms in the lead up to the election.

“(Officials) are encouraged by their efforts to date to address online disinformation,” she said.

Like the platforms that Gould’s office has maintained a dialogue with, WeChat is bound by online advertising rules introduced by the Liberals in Bill C-76, which, among other things, require it to keep political ads displayed in a registry, if they’re shown on the platform.

Election Advertising

On Tuesday, Braeden Caley, spokesperson for the Liberal Party, wouldn’t say whether or not the party would use WeChat to advertise ahead of the election. The People’s Party hadn’t yet made a decision about whether or not it will advertise on WeChat, according to its executive director Johanne Mennie. The other three parties that are expecting to run candidates in all 338 ridings did not get back to iPolitics about whether or not they plan on advertising on the app, by the time this story was published.

Source: WeChat not included in government’s discussions with social media on protecting election

Liberal party membership forms distributed at pro-Beijing rally against Hong Kong protests

Look forward to more details emerging:

As speaker after speaker criticized the mass protests in Hong Kong and defended the Chinese government at a Toronto-area rally recently, a different kind of politicking was quietly unfolding.

Several members of the crowd of about 200 passed around and appeared to fill in Liberal membership forms, a striking juxtaposition between Canada’s governing party and backers of China’s Communist regime.

A Liberal spokesman said Thursday the forms looked to be ones that haven’t been used for three years — since the party ended paid memberships — and which would not be accepted today as valid registrations.

And the party had nothing at all to do with the rally, he added.

But critics of the Chinese government say they’re troubled that any kind of Liberal recruiting efforts might have taken place at a pro-Beijing event, calling it more evidence of China’s sway within Canadian politics generally.

“You can see the close connection between the pro-Beijing camp and the Liberal party,” said Gloria Fung of the group Canada-Hong Kong Link. “But … the pro-Beijing camp actually has their people in different federal parties. It’s not only confined to the Liberal party. I can easily name people in the Conservative party who are advocates of the Chinese government’s interests.”

The Aug. 11 rally at King Square shopping centre in Markham featured a number of speakers who portrayed the massive demonstrations in Hong Kong as a dangerous threat to the city’s peace, stability and economy.

The protests have brought as many as a million or more people to the streets for the past 11 weeks, decrying a law that would have allowed extradition to mainland China, calling for the investigation of alleged police brutality and demanding democratic reforms. Some have become violent.

Speakers at the Markham event included Michael Chan, who until last year was an Ontario Liberal cabinet minister.

Chinese-language media reports had said Han Dong, another former MPP who is now running for the federal Liberal nomination in Toronto’s Don Valley North riding, would also attend. One of the event’s moderators mentioned his name, too. But Dong issued a statement latersaying neither he nor any of his campaign team were at the rally. He could not be reached for comment.

Recruiting new members is a timeworn way for would-be candidates to win party nominations.

John Yuen, a Toronto-based supporter of the Hong Kong democracy movement attended the Markham rally to observe, and said he videotaped people passing around forms bearing the Liberal logo.

In the video, posted on Facebook, some of the audience members begin filling out the papers.

Photographs taken by another observer at the rally, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Wilfred, provide a closer look at the form. It appears to be the same as one that was available for download from the Liberal website as recently as Wednesday evening. The National Post asked about the incident Thursday morning, and the download page had been disabled by the afternoon.

The form, which includes payment options, has not been used since 2016, when the federal Liberals decided to make membership in the party free, said spokesman Braeden Caley.

“Those images do not appear to be authentic Liberal registration forms, and they would not be accepted as valid by the party,” he said. “The Liberal Party of Canada was not involved in the event … in any respect.”

Canadians can now join the party without charge by registering online.

Regardless, the presence of partisan political activity at the event raised eyebrows within the Chinese-Canadian community.

“I was very alarmed,” said Fenella Sung of the group Canadian Friends of Hong Kong, who suggested the Liberal party investigate how it happened.

Fung of Canada-Hong Kong Link said she sees the incident as more evidence of Beijing’s attempts to involve itself in Canadian politics, an important issue with an election looming.

“I consider this to be a major threat to our democracy,” she said

Source: Liberal party membership forms distributed at pro-Beijing rally against Hong Kong protests

Former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister headlines pro-Beijing rally near Toronto

Sigh.

If I recall correctly, former Minister Chan was the implicit example of a provincial cabinet minister when former CSIS Director Fadden warned about Canadian politicians being “agents of influence” or “secret supporters.” in 2010:

As protesters continued to surge through the streets of Hong Kong to press for greater freedoms, a former Canadian cabinet member offered a much different viewpoint — just outside Toronto.

Michael Chan, Ontario’s Liberal trade minister until last year, was a keynote speaker as scores of Chinese Canadians rallied in support of Beijing and the largely non-democratic Hong Kong administration.

“Unity is better than violence,” Chan proclaimed. “We support Hong Kong’s police strictly handling unrest, Hong Kong’s government carefully defending the rule of law, China’s government carefully observing Hong Kong,”

The event Chan headlined was part of what appears to be a worldwide effort to rally the Chinese diaspora against the Hong Kong demonstrators, whose prolonged, mass movement has offered a surprising challenge to Beijing.

In downtown Toronto on Saturday, a parade of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other super cars driven by China supporters waving People’s Republic flags contributed to a noisy — if bizarre — counter protest, as backers of the Hong Kong democracy advocates struggled to be heard.

Similar clashes have occurred in Australia and Vancouver, where on Sunday China loyalists surrounded a church holding a prayer session for the Hong Kong demonstrators.

They come as Chinese President Xi Jinping expands the role of the United Front Work Department, a party offshoot whose mission includes influencing ethnic Chinese and political elites in foreign countries.

There is no direct evidence that Chinese officials are behind the various pro-Beijing activities, but critics of the regime argue their fingerprints are everywhere.

“I definitely, 100 per cent believe these kind of actions are organized by the Chinese communist regime in Beijing,” says Sheng Xue, a prominent Toronto-based journalist and activist.

And the opposing demonstrations indicate the Chinese-Canadian community is far from united in defence of Hong Kong’s China-backed government.

Many of those in the Toronto and Vancouver counter–protests appeared to be visiting mainland Chinese students — one of whom said on social media he was prepared to be deported if necessary — while some at the rally with Chan were paid $100 to attend, according to one community source.

Those supporting the protesters are predominately from Hong Kong, and take to the streets free of any government support, argued Gloria Fung, whose Hong Kong-Canada Link group held the Toronto demonstration.

“We came forward spontaneously, without any vested interest,” she said.

But an organizer of the Toronto counter-protest said he had no backing from the local consulate, and was simply reacting to violence perpetrated by Hong Kong “seditionists.” Excerpts of posts from his group on the Chinese-owned WeChat site were obtained by the National Post.

“Comrades, we have a five thousand year history of honouring our ancestors, pride in our people, unbreakable spirit and I hope everyone can turn out,” said the organizer, calling himself TonY. “We are unlike the Hong Kong seditionists, we don’t have any hidden hand behind us, we have no leaders. All we have are patriotic hearts and patriotic integrity moving us forward.”

In the same WeChat group, a user named Biubiu says before the counter-protest that “We’ve all made preparations to get deported.” Another, called Shele, adds “For country … for party … Always prepared to sacrifice for Communism.”

The protests in Hong Kong have repeatedly seen a million or more people take to the streets over the past 11 weeks. The rallies started as a reaction to a proposed law allowing extradition from the enclave to mainland China, but have expanded to also decry police brutality, and call for democratic reform.

While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, China and its supporters have seized on those that became violent.

In fact, an unsigned Chinese-language memo circulating on social media offers talking points for people living in foreign countries, said Fung, who believes it is a Communist document. Among other points, the note suggests portraying the protests as a struggle between patriots and separatists, peace and violence and the rule of law and rioting, she said.

Perhaps the strangest manifestation of the pro-China position came on Saturday in Toronto, when several supporters of the Chinese Communist Party showed up in high-priced sports cars, revving their engines as the pro-democracy rally unfolded.

They seemed to be saying “I have money, but I am ‘patriotic. I’m loyal to China,’ ” said Fenella Sung of the group Canadian Friends of Hong Kong. ” ‘We can just roll over you.’ That’s the message.”

According to Chinese-language media reports, the event Chan spoke at on Aug. 12 in Markham, Ont., was partly organized by the Toronto Confederation of Chinese Canadian Organizations, a group that has often worked closely with Beijing’s local consulate.

Coverage of the Aug. 12 event at Markham’s King Square mall includes photographs of a number of Chinese-Canadian organizations, including a purported Tibetan group that Tibetan-community leaders say is essentially a Beijing front.

One source in the Toronto-area Chinese-Canadian community says members of a seniors group were each paid $100 to attend the rally, something the Post could not confirm independently.

Chan’s speech described Hong Kong’s growth from a fishing village to a powerful international business and trade centre, before urging authorities there to take a firm hand with the protests.

Sung said his presence at the event suggests a lack of respect for basic Canadian values of freedom and democracy.

The former Liberal MPP, who resigned before last year’s Ontario election and is now a business adviser for the Miller Thomson law firm, could not be reached for comment.

Reports before the event suggested that Han Dong, another former MPP who is running for the federal Liberal nomination in Don Valley North riding, would also attend. But Dong later issued a statement saying neither he nor anyone on his team was there.

Source: Former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister headlines pro-Beijing rally near Toronto

Daphne Bramham: China’s long reach laid bare by Hong Kong protests

Expect we will continue to see many articles like this:

Beijing’s long reach into the Chinese diaspora and beyond has rarely been as evident as it is now.

On Monday, Twitter suspended 936 accounts, which it described as “the most active” of 200,000 accounts representing “a larger, spammy network.” The accounts originating in China were “deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”

Based on “intensive investigations, Twitter said it has “reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation. Specifically, we identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protests.”

Based on Twitter’s findings, Facebook also shut down seven pages, three groups and seven accounts.

Fortunately, this weekend’s march by an estimated 1.7 million Hong Kongers was peaceful after several weeks of violence and alleged police brutality.

But there were rising tensions in several Canadian cities as well as Paris, London, New York City and Sydney where pro-Beijing counter-protests were hastily arranged at sites of rallies held in support of Hong Kong’s protest movement.

The counter-protests were strikingly similar with denunciations of the Hong Kong “rioters” and “traitors” and false accusations of Hong Kongers demanding independence from China. They sang the Chinese national anthem under seemingly fresh-from-the-package Chinese flags and scores of identical placards.

With their own citizens protesting in the streets — many of them of Chinese ancestry — Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Crystia Freeland and the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini were told to mind their own business by China. They had issued a joint statement urging restraint and condemning the “rising number of unacceptable violent incidents” in Hong Kong that might lead to “risks of further violence and instability.”

In Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, police were busy keeping protesters and counter-protesters separated and safe.

On Saturday, social media chatter among Vancouver-based China’s supporters included boasts about bringing bricks, rocks and knives to hastily organized counter-protests that resulted in a more obvious police presence than at previous events. Whether the threats were legitimate, it’s up to the police to investigate.

Later, scores of counter-protesters gathered outside Nordstrom’s, video posted on Facebook shows one young man marching past the red flags with his arm raised in a pseudo-Nazi salute with Chinese singing in the background. The show of forced convinced the organizers of a nearby pro-Hong Kong event to cancel.

On Sunday, a convoy of flag-draped cars and some landscaping trucks that had blocked the street outside the Chinese consul general’s house on Granville Street during a rally drove to a nearby church.

There, about 80 worshippers met to pray for peace, freedom, human rights and democracy in the former British colony. Police kept the 100 or so flag-waving and red-clad demonstrators away from the church and helped escort the worshippers though the crowd when the prayers ended.

Chris Chiu, one of the prayer meeting’s organizers, called it an assault on religious freedom, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression — something protected in Canada, but absent in China.

“We definitely felt intimidated,” he said. “As far as I know this doesn’t even happen in Hong Kong. Some churches there have opened their space during protests so that people can have a rest, get first aid or some water. They’re like shelters.

“It was definitely outrageous and shocking. It makes me feel very angry and unsafe even in Canada.”

Chiu said members of Vancouver Christians for Love, Peace and Justice will be meeting later this week to talk about their future.

“Are we going to hold any prayer meeting for Hong Kong or any other causes that China doesn’t like? Do we have to think about safety? About contacting police or hiring security guards? We don’t know the answers.”

Bizarrely, there were also by noisy drive-bys of flag-draped luxury cars at protests sites in Vancouver and Toronto.

Ferraris, McLarens, Aston Martins and Porsches revved their engines and honking is intimidation on a whole different scale in cities that have been roiled by a different kind of social unrest from residents who have been priced out of the housing market and who have been rocked by a multi-billion-dollar, money-laundering scandal that’s been linked to China.

The revving of cars that cost more than many people’s homes was another ostentatious reminder of China’s economic power.

Canada and Canadians are already suffering the economic consequences of China’s retribution for cleaving to our own values and upholding the rule of law with regard to Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

She’s under house arrest in her multi-million Vancouver home, awaiting an extradition trial, while two Canadians — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — have been jailed without trial in China and two others jailed in China have been condemned to death.

People in Hong Kong are in a life-and-death struggle to retain the vestiges of freedom that have made the city-state so vibrant. They are struggling to retain their own culture and customs and even the Cantonese language, which is increasingly being replaced by Mandarin.

As the Chinese government exerts ever increasing influence over other countries in Asia, Africa and in Canada, Hong Kongers are not alone in thinking that they may just be the canary in the coal mine.

Source: Daphne Bramham: China’s long reach laid bare by Hong Kong protests

The Battle for Hong Kong Is Being Fought in Sydney and Vancouver How Beijing is weaponizing social media in its fight to crush the Hong Kong protests.

Good account:

As the police deploy tear gas against protesters on the streets of Hong Kong, another battle is raging less visibly: the one for narrative control. After weeks of asserting that the unrest had been orchestrated by foreign “black hands,” Chinese officials on Monday accused protesters of showing the first signs of “terrorism.” Such messaging is key to Beijing’s public opinion operation, which has been turned up to full volume.

The weapons of this information war include a flood of social media posts from state-run media, some carrying misinformation. When a woman dispensing first aid was shot in the eye by the Hong Kong police, the state-run CCTV reported on its official social media account that she had been shot by protesters. It also accused her of handing out money to demonstrators. Chinese readers are unlikely to question the veracity of such an authoritative source, and CCTV’s Weibo post, which says the movement is slandering the Hong Kong police by blaming them for the injury, has been liked more than 700,000 times.

Ten weeks ago, when Hong Kongers first took to the streets to protest disputed extradition legislation, Beijing censored all reports of this civil unrest. But in recent days, it has reveled in posting video of protesters purportedly using air guns, slingshots and petrol bombs against the police. The state-run Global Times has described protesters as “nothing more than street thugs who want Hong Kong to ‘go to hell,’” or as people who had “voluntarily stripped themselves of their national identity.” Such descriptions are aimed at delegitimizing the protesters’ cause, especially among educated mainlanders who might otherwise be sympathetic.

Chinese people living or studying overseas are another important audience for Beijing’s messaging. Their primary news diet is largely delivered via WeChat, a Chinese chat app where messages are subject to censorship, so they often still fall within Beijing’s propaganda orbit. Recent pictures of an American diplomat meeting two activists, Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, were used to bolster Beijing’s claims of hostile foreign forces backing the protests. On Tuesday, scenes of a Chinese state media worker being tied up at the airport and beaten by young protesters flooded Chinese social media, bolstering calls for Beijing to intervene militarily in Hong Kong.

Chinese immigration applications to Canada plunge since Meng Wanzhou arrest

Interesting. While to date we have not seen a decline in student visa applications, will see whether this apparent trend will start to extend to students:

Chinese applications for Canadian immigration and visitor visas both fell to their lowest levels in recent years after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver and Beijing issued a travel warning to its citizens about “arbitrary detention” in Canada.

The explosive growth rate in Chinese tourism that had seen mainlander arrivals in Canada nearly quadruple since the start of the decade has also plummeted, official figures show, with potential losses of hundreds of millions of dollars in visitor spending.

There were 1,574 mainland Chinese immigration applications in June, the lowest monthly total since March 2015, according to the latest data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). And this February’s 1,754 applications had represented a 45-month low at the time.

Jean-Francois Harvey, a Hong Kong-based immigration lawyer, said three mainland Chinese immigration consultants had told him that Meng’s December 1 arrest and the resultant diplomatic chill had had an effect on business, although it was not necessarily a “deal breaker”.

Source: Chinese immigration applications to Canada plunge since Meng Wanzhou arrest

Glavin: While Hong Kong fights for democracy, Canada goes silent

Will be interesting to continue to watch how this issue plays out among Chinese Canadians, mainland and Hong Kong origin, the degree that this is reflected in Chinese language ethnic media and whether this becomes an election issue for Chinese Canadians and party messaging:

All flights out of Hong Kong International Airport were cancelled this afternoon as authorities blamed protesters for disruptions following a brutal police crackdown on street demonstrations over the weekend. In the most dramatic civil disturbances since Hong Kong was turned over to China in 1997, more than 600 people have been arrested in what has been a largely non-violent uprising. It has carried on for 10 straight weeks.

In an ominous escalation of its threats of retaliation, Beijing dispatched a massive convoy of armoured vehicles from the Peoples Armed Police that arrived Saturday at a stadium in Shenzhen, just across the border from the semi-autonomous financial hub. Last Tuesday in Shenzhen, following a general strike that paralyzed much of Hong Kong, more than 12,000 “anti-riot” police engaged in elaborate mock riot-suppression drills. On Sunday, a senior Communist Party official declared that “the first signs of terrorism” are beginning to appear in Hong Kong.

The confrontations over the weekend sent 40 people to hospital, including protesters, volunteer medics, journalists and bystanders. They were injured by baton-swinging police or struck by tear-gas canisters, rubber bullets or bean-bag rounds fired at close range directly into groups of people in crowded metro stations.

The Hong Kong protests have been escalating ever since June 9, when a million people marched in opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill that anticipated the integration of Hong Kong into China’s penal system. The protesters’ demands quickly grew to include the full withdrawal of the proposed law, a retraction of the “riot” classification that put protesters arrested in a series of clashes on June 12 at risk of 10-year prison sentences, amnesty for all arrested protesters, an independent inquiry into police conduct, and perhaps most importantly, the relaunch of a promised electoral reform process—the main objective of the failed 2014 “Umbrella Movement” protests—to establish a system of one person, one vote.

This summer’s protests constitute the most direct challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he consolidated power seven years ago and embarked on a policy of accelerated internal repression and outward neo-imperialist belligerence. Xi’s reign has been marked by intensive surveillance and ramped-up censorship, the persecution of human rights defenders and the mass incarceration of the Muslim Uighurs of Xinjiang.

His foreign-policy initiatives include the annexation of the South China Sea, the militarization of China’s global “Belt and Road” initiative and a series of outlandishly aggressive moves, not least the “hostage diplomacy” at work in the arbitrary arrests of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The protest leadership, meanwhile, is organic and profoundly democratic, bringing together a diverse cross section of Hong Kong Society that includes separatists, young, disaffected militants, middle-class democrats, the Roman Catholic church and the Hong Kong Law Society. Squared off against Xi’s authoritarian regime in Beijing and his incompetent regional puppet, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s protest movement has tried and largely failed to win support from the world’s liberal democracies.

A recent poll by Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Research Institute found that while 58 per cent of the protesters are animated by their dismal economic prospects, mostly in relation to housing, 84 per cent say they’re protesting on account of their distrust of Lam’s administration, and 87 per cent are taking to the streets for the “pursuit of democracy.”

Natalie Hui, a senior member of the Canadian Friends of Hong Kong organization, says Canadians are not facing up to the dire implications of the Hong Kong crisis, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is foolishly wishing it would all just go away. “What we are seeing in Hong Kong is a crystal ball for Canada,” Hui told me.

There are at least 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong. Canada is home to another 1.5 million ethnic Chinese. Many have family in mainland China, and they fear that their relatives will be harassed if they speak up. The Trudeau government’s policy of business-as-usual trade engagement and otherwise saying nothing to arouse Beijing’s ire will do nothing in the cause of freeing Spavor and Kovrig, who were arrested in retaliation for last December’s detention in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou. The chief financial officer for the Zhenzhen telecom giant Huawei, Meng was picked up on a U.S. Justice Department extradition warrant on charges of bank fraud and evading U.S. sanctions on Iran.

On the bright side, Hui said Hongkongers are showing that you can fight Beijing, and if you won’t necessarily win you won’t necessarily lose, either. Hongkongers have fought Beijing to a draw, so far, and they’ve managed to stop the extradition bill in its tracks. “Hong Kong is showing that you can push back. They are inside the mouth of the lion, but they still say no to the regime. But we must take action now.”

The Trudeau government, however, has failed to uphold the global values it so loudly claims to cherish. “This is a very critical moment in history. I don’t want to demoralize people but I think the Chinese Communist Party will destroy peoples’ careers and arrest a lot of people. Canada is weak. As a Canadian citizen, I have not seen anything from our government. We have emboldened China’s thuggish behaviours, because we haven’t done anything. It’s just silence.”

Maclean’s reached out to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office for comment, but got no response.

David Mulroney, Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, agrees that silence is the worst policy. “We’ve really, really let down the side. It may be too little, too late now, but I’d like to see clearer statements from the foreign minister and the Prime Minister. Anything is better than silence.”

The horrible predicament that Kovrig and Spavor face is no excuse for Canada’s silence, Mulroney said. “China is hoping they can so intimidate people and cow people in the west that they can achieve their aims with almost no cost to themselves. When Canada is silent, when much of Europe other than the U.K. is silent, it’s easier to get away with what they’re trying to do, to undermine what freedoms Hong Kong still has.

“You’ve got to be honest with China. You’ve got to be direct with China, whether it’s detentions of Canadian citizens or attacks on democracy and autonomy in Hong Kong, we have to speak up whenever we can. I don’t think our silence does anything other than confirm China in its commitment to hostage diplomacy. If they find that by doing this they secure our silence, it makes it even more likely that they’ll do it in the future. It confirms them in their proclivity to take hostages and detain people. So it does nothing to change their behaviour.”

While U.S. President Donald Trump has been worse than useless—Trump has praised Xi for his restraint in dealing with Hongkongers, and has referred to the protests as “riots”—one of Hong Kong’s best hopes at the moment is the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy bill that’s up for consideration in the U.S. Congress when the summer recess ends after Labour Day. Mulroney has added his name to a letter from a long list of China experts, directed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urging quick adoption of the bill.

Among other things, the bill would potentially remove Hong Kong’s special status in U.S. trade law, a status that has allowed China to evade rules and sanctions by employing Hong Kong as a conduit for inbound and outbound investment since the early 1990s. The bill would also suspend visa restrictions on criminal convictions for individuals convicted for participating in demonstrations, and would sanction Chinese and Hong Kong officials deemed guilty of human rights abuses.

Passage of the bill could put Beijing on notice that if the Hong Kong democracy movement is crushed, Beijing would reap no benefit, but would instead stand to be punished severely in its trade relationships with the United States.

It’s too bad that Canada isn’t contemplating a similar law, Mulroney said. Hui agreed.

“A Canadian law, like that. That is my dream, that we could do that,” she said. “That is my dream.”

Source: While Hong Kong fights for democracy, Canada goes silent