Why CSIS believes Canada is a ‘permissive target’ for China’s interference

Useful reminder, as Canada faces the ongoing hostage taking of the two Michaels by the Chinese government, of the need for greater caution in dealing with the Chinese government and its various entities:

Canada is an “attractive and permissive target” for Chinese interference that endangers the “foundations of our fundamental institutions, including our system of democracy itself,” according to a recent national security review.

The reason, experts suggest, is because China’s Communist Party has won the support of some influential Canadians by using economic carrots and sticks, while public attention on Beijing’s broad campaign is “almost non-existent.”

The national security review says “for years Canadian Security Intelligence Service has investigated and reported on the threat” of foreign interference. But unlike Canada’s Western intelligence allies, Ottawa hasn’t responded with strong countermeasures.

Chinese-Canadian community leader asks Ottawa to offer support against Beijing influence networks

In an interview, Global News pressed Liberal MP David McGuinty, chair of the national security and intelligence committee, to explain why Canada is “permissive” of China’s methods.

McGuinty said he could only answer by citing the report findings because of its sensitivity. He chose to read this quote: “The People’s Republic of China utilizes its growing economic wealth to mobilize interference operations: ‘with deep coffers and the help of western enablers, the Chinese Communist Party uses money, rather than Communist ideology, as a powerful source of influence, creating parasitic relationships of long-term dependence.’”

‘Sweetheart deals’

The committee’s report named two countries — Russia and China — among those conducting “sophisticated and pervasive foreign interference activities against Canada.”

But intelligence officials and former diplomats, including Canada’s former ambassador to China, believe China is the greater threat, in large part because the country has been successful in “elite capture.”

“China is the No. 1 threat to Canada and has been for some time,” David Mulroney, former ambassador to China, said in an interview.

China has used its economic leverage to secure “the voices” of political and business leaders in Canada with “sweetheart business deals” and “various inducements,” including lucrative board positions or honours in China, he said.

And as a result, Mulroney said he often hears people reciting Beijing’s line on issues such as the extradition case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou or are silent in the face of China’s mass detention of Uyghurs and incursions on democracy in Hong Kong.

“There are people a lot more senior than I was in government, and they have some serious business links with China,” Mulroney said. “China is very willing to weaponize trade and investment to compel people to say what they want them to say.”

The argument that Mulroney and experts interviewed by Global News make is not that all Canadian politicians and businesses that have traded with China have been influenced. Rather, they say, Beijing has targeted elites and deftly attempted to interweave the CCP’s interests with Canada’s economic interests, seeking to bend major decisions away from Canada’s democratic values.

And they say Canadians should see Hong Kong as a case study.

But recent events in the United States, Australia and Canada suggest that pushing back on China’s interference could have consequences. In 2019, China called for the firing of an NBA executive who tweeted support for Hong Kong, using the NBA’s business in China as leverage.

And Australia has faced trade sanction threats and was targeted in sophisticated state-based cyberattacks, its government said in June. Australia recently pressed for an international probe of Beijing’s actions in the coronavirus pandemic and Australia’s intelligence experts say China is likely behind the attacks. China denies the accusation.

And on Monday, Beijing warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “stop making irresponsible remarks,” according to The Associated Press, after Trudeau told reporters Beijing’s decision to charge Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor with spying was related to the Meng case.

But despite warning signs of China’s incursions, Canadian academics, think tanks and media have been way behind the international curve in scrutinizing China’s “clandestine” tactics, Mulroney said.

“Canada is kind of a sleepy and unaware target,” he said. “We don’t have the same kind of vigilance that you now see in places like Australia and New Zealand. That had better change.”

United Front operations

China uses a vast network of political, business and media operatives directed from Beijing, known as the United Front, in attempts to co-opt Chinese-Canadian communities and leaders, Mulroney and the experts interviewed by Global News said.

In June, Alex Joske, an analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, released a report aimed at helping international journalists identify and demystify United Front networks.

In it, Joske defines the United Front as “the system at the heart of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to influence foreign politicians, meddle in ethnic Chinese communities and transfer technologies from abroad … it is an exportation of the CCP’s political system (which) undermines social cohesion, exacerbates racial tension, influences politics, harms media integrity, facilitates espionage.”

He believes the United Front could be just as active in Canada as it is in Australia, where an alleged United Front leader, billionaire and casino high-roller became a major funder of Australian political parties. An Australian senator also allegedly accepted funds from Chinese agents and touted China’s South China Sea policy against Australia’s position after the billionaire threatened to withdraw a $400,000 political donation.

Joske said in order to understand the United Front, people should look at China’s patient campaign to control Hong Kong, where China has used front groups to co-opt political leaders, tycoons and institutions since the 1990s.

“Hong Kong is a long way down the track,” Joske said. “But by looking at Hong Kong, you understand how the United Front works.”

Joske’s report also underlined the United Front’s mobilization during the COVID-19 pandemic — in Australia, Canada, the U.S. and U.K., Japan, Argentina and the Czech Republic — “to gather increasingly scarce medical supplies from around the world and send them to China.”

And based on China’s success using United Front networks during thecoronavirus pandemic, Beijing can be expected to ramp up the intensity of its United Front interference worldwide as tensions between China and the world rise in the post-COVID-19 landscape, Joske said.

“The CCP’s attempts to interfere in diaspora communities, influence political systems and covertly access valuable and sensitive technology will only grow.”

Joske’s report says United Front pioneers such as Premier Zhou Enlai, a CCP revolutionary, said the United Front should use “the legal to mask the illegal,” and the CCP should be “nestling intelligence within the United Front.”

And Chinese President Xi Jinping has elevated the United Front’s prominence in Beijing’s global plans.

“The United Front … is an important magic weapon for strengthening the party’s ruling position … and an important magic weapon for realizing the China Dream of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation,” Xi said in a 2015 speech.

But China does not acknowledge the United Front facilitates espionage.

‘Many elected officials’

Experts describe Beijing as holding out carrots and sticks.

And unfortunately, it is Chinese diaspora communities that often face the sticks. According to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, China uses “a range of tactics including threats, harassment, detention of family members abroad and refusal to issue travel documents or visas.”

Chinese-Canadian community leader Gloria Fung, director of democracy advocacy group Canada-Hong Kong Link, says she has seen China’s influence efforts in Canada become increasingly aggressive with both the carrot and the stick.

In the 1990s, United Front networks just made passive political donations to all Canadian political parties, Fung said. Now they are aggressively lobbying for Beijing’s policies, covertly offering political funding from Beijing and attempting to promote covert CCP party members for election, Fung claimed.

And Fung said she believes China has successfully influenced “many elected officials.”

“They could be bribing, offering money or material benefits to targets in the decision-making process,” Fung said. “Many elected officials are offered free tours to China. And many, when they returned, seem to have changed their positions towards China.”

Tensions reached a new level in August 2019, Fung said, when Hong Kong Canadians were targeted in anti-democracy counter-protests in a number of Canadian cities.

Fung pointed to a Hong Kong democracy counter-rally at Toronto’s Old City Hall on Aug. 17, where she says her group was surrounded by students and middle-aged leaders, who Fung associated with Toronto United Front groups.

A similar conflict occurred in Vancouver on Aug. 18 when a pro-China crowd surrounded a church where Hong Kong Canadians were praying.

By comparing photos and video of the event with pictures of meetings involving Chinese consulate officials, Global News sources identified several senior members in the crowd as directors of a pro-CCP association, which Chen Yonglin, a defected Chinese diplomat, alleges is a “controlling level” United Front group in Canada.

The pro-CCP association is part of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, a United Front group that Beijing uses to influence the Chinese diaspora, according to a 2018 report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

“United Front work is Beijing’s strategy to influence overseas Chinese communities, foreign governments and other actors … mainly through economic or financial inducement,” the commission’s chair, Robin Cleveland, told Global News. “The CCP considers ethnic Chinese everywhere to ultimately be Chinese subjects, regardless of their citizenship, and seeks to treat them as resources to assist in ‘the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’ whether they like it or not.”

A Chinese-Canadian academic ⁠— who is studying Beijing’s influence networks ⁠— agreed with Fung’s assessment of China’s efforts to control community groups.

The academic asked to remain anonymous because of fears that officials in Chinese consulates could interfere with their ongoing research.

“Many in the Chinese-Canadian diaspora do not want to have anything to do with the Chinese government. But unfortunately, immigrants from China and Hong Kong are not completely free from the government’s control and surveillance,” the academic said.

How Australia has combated the United Front

Most experts interviewed by Global News said Australia’s legislative reforms should be a model for other countries combating China’s interference campaigns.

In an interview, McGuinty, the intelligence committee chair, said the report underlined how Australia has taken concrete measures since 2018, including adding new offences to its Criminal Code.

The report says the new offences “provide a high degree of specificity on offences and threat activities, including on whether the activity was in the planning stages, intentional, reckless or funded by a foreign intelligence service.”

The penalties range from 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. And “the legislation creates a new transparency scheme that prescribes the registration of persons acting as agents of foreign principals and requires regular public disclosures.”

Trudeau questioned on reports of pressure from Chinese government on Chinese-Canadian citizens

In an interview, Mulroney said: “We need to invest in national security and insist on greater transparency.”

He said currently, Canadians have no real idea whether influential politicians and businesspersons are acting for China or Canada. And it is extremely difficult to hold Canadian citizens that may be acting against Canadian interests to account under current laws.

“What Australia have done is give transparency requirements some legal teeth,” Mulroney said. “And they use their intelligence apparatus to make the case against people that are not transparent. And I think we need to consider these things so Canadians become far more aware of who is speaking for whom.”

Gloria Fung agreed.

“Legislative tools on corruption and fishy transactions need to be closely monitored and put under Parliament’s radar,” Fung said. “Australia has all kinds of legislative tools to handle political collusion.”

McGuinty was asked by Global News to explain the evident gap between Canadian intelligence’s strong warnings of China’s interference and the federal government’s response.

McGuinty reiterated that the committee recommendations are bipartisan and straightforward, and the committee purposefully chose Australia as an exemplar to be considered by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

“We believe the government needs to up its game when it comes to foreign interference,” he said. “There is lots of room for improvement.”

‘Comparatively rare’

But University of B.C. China expert Prof. Paul Evans, who has argued for closer ties with China and published research indicating Canadians are losing confidence “about the role of the United States” in global affairs, told Global News “the discourse of ‘capture’ is especially dangerous.”

Evans draws a distinction between influence and “interference activities” and says “it is very difficult to estimate how many such incidents happen in Canada each year.”

“My sense is that they are comparatively rare,” Evans wrote in an email response. “It is unproductive to talk about undermining ‘institutions’ without specifying which ones are being discussed.”

Evans said it is “dangerous” to rely on Australia’s data and examples of foreign interference, and assume the same kinds and scale of interference activity is occurring in Canada.

“We have reached a dangerous phase of our debates about China policy where advocates of engagement, past and present, are being attacked not just for the content of their views and actions but also for their integrity and even loyalty,” Evans wrote. “This is vile terrain and reminiscent of the worst of the McCarthy era and anti-communist actions in the United States in the 1950s.”

Source: https://globalnews.ca/news/7075248/canada-china-interference-permissive-target/
Related commentary of interest:

Liberal government’s ‘almost humiliating’ posture toward China a missed opportunity: former top diplomat

ICYMI. While David Mulroney is the more “hardline” of the two, the fundamental message from Guy Saint-Jacques is the same:

Two former diplomats are warning that the Liberal government’s recent silence on China could reinforce the country’s increasingly belligerent actions on the world stage, amid concerns Chinese officials actively misled the World Health Organization during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

David Mulroney, who served as Canadian ambassador to China in Beijing between 2009 and 2012, said Ottawa’s “almost humiliating” posture toward China in recent weeks was a missed opportunity to acknowledge the country’s shortcomings during the viral outbreak.

China has drawn criticism for providing potentially faulty information to the WHO, particularly in the first weeks of the spread of COVID-19, which in turn left world leaders largely ill-prepared for the virus.

Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as Canada’s envoy to China from 2012 to 2016, said leaders in Canada and elsewhere need to call for a full investigation of the WHO after it uncritically relayed information from Beijing observers claim could be inaccurate.

He also denounced recent “reprehensible” comments by Health Minister Patty Hajdu, who dismissed claims about faulty Chinese reporting as “conspiracy theories” that originated “on the Internet.”

Mulroney said the recent silence by Ottawa is part of a long-standing instinct to gloss over Chinese aggressions, largely due to its tendency to retaliate and its growing economic heft. But an unwillingness to acknowledge even the possibility of Chinese misdeeds could sow public distrust.

“Ottawa can’t seem to shake this tendency to flatter,” he said in an interview with the National Post.

“I’m not suggesting that we need to insult China or provoke a quarrel. We should simply be guided by the facts. And right now the facts argue for the case that China was delinquent, that it wasn’t transparent enough. That’s not a conspiracy theory.”

“When you start acknowledging the truth, then positive and corrective action is possible. As long as you’re in denial, there’s no hope of action that will ameliorate the situation. This is a tremendous missed opportunity and it’s not too late for the government to slowly turn the ship around,” Mulroney said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has batted away repeated questions about the WHO this week, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would withdraw funding from the organization.

Then on Thursday, Trudeau came closer to acknowledging some of the criticisms of China and the WHO, saying “there have been questions asked” about the organization, “but at the same time it is really important that we stay coordinated as we move through this.”

Both former ambassadors said Trump’s threat to immediately pull funding from the WHO would needlessly and dangerously cripple the organization at a critical time.

Saint-Jacques, who acknowledged that Ottawa is in a “delicate” position with regards to China, said world leaders should call for a thorough review of the WHO’s handling of the pandemic once it is under control.

“You have to draw a line,” Saint-Jacques said. “You have to stop such behaviour. You have to acknowledge that if you dealt with this issue with a lot more transparency we would have avoided an international crisis that has led to one of the greatest recessions of our times.”

The Trudeau government has repeatedly been forced to navigate tense relations with China, particularly after Canadian authorities arrested the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies in 2018, at the request of the U.S.

An attempt by Trudeau early in his leadership to forge a free trade deal with the country quickly evaporated, after Chinese officials made it clear that they were disinterested in certain “progressive” elements put forward by Canada, including proposals around environmental policy and gender-based analysis.

“Cabinet did not fully realize what I call the dark side of China,” Saint-Jacques said of the trade mission.

Criticism of the WHO began in earnest on Jan. 14, when Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the organization, tweeted a message nearly identical to that of the Chinese government, saying researchers “have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” of the coronavirus.

By Jan. 20 Chinese officials finally confirmed that the virus could indeed spread through human contact, and shut down the city of Wuhan, where the virus originated. Another week passed before the WHO declared a public health emergency.

On Feb. 6, weeks after the body had designated a public health emergency, the organization issued a press release calling on countries to avoid imposing travel bans or “medically unnecessary restrictions” against China, saying such moves could “fuel racism” against the country.

Those directives were absorbed by national governments around the world, who were in turn caught off guard by the scope and nature of COVID-19.

The WHO’s director-general has dismissed much of the criticism of his organization as unnecessary “politicization” of the issue, but he has said the virus exposed some shortcomings at the United Nations group.

“No doubt, areas for improvement will be identified and there will be lessons for all of us to learn. But for now, our focus — my focus — is on stopping this virus and saving lives.”

Source: Liberal government’s ‘almost humiliating’ posture toward China a missed opportunity: former top diplomat

A year ago, Ottawa did the right thing by arresting Meng Wanzhou. We’re still paying the price

The latest by former ambassador to China, David Mulroney, capping a series of articles in the Globe and elsewhere on the challenges posed by China and the arguments for a more robust response:

A year after the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, new reporting is shedding light on what actually happened and when. But we’re still a long way from understanding the fallout from the arrest, and what it tells us about China and our future.

It appears that Vancouver was the place the Americans selected in their bid to get the well-travelled Ms. Meng arrested because they deemed Canada the country most likely to comply with their request. Given the price we’ve paid since, that’s a dubious honour. But it’s also an indication of the extent to which a bipartisan cross-section of official Washington trusts Canada. That trust was not misplaced.

It’s also clear that Canada was given advance warning of the request, although not much. Canadian officials heard from the Americans on Nov. 30, the day before Ms. Meng’s arrival in Vancouver, allowing them the minimum amount of time to act.

But it was time enough for the team that considered the American evidence. The toughest calls in Ottawa always come with the tightest deadlines. Getting them right is the essence of a senior official’s job.

That said, it’s not clear that officials anticipated how furiously China would react, or the difficulty of managing an extended crisis in Canada-China relations. Having stepped up to make the right call, Ottawa then seemed to go into responsive mode, consistently a step behind a strident and formidably vengeful China.

Once the decision to arrest Ms. Meng was made, it was entirely appropriate to advise the Prime Minister – he was, after all, at a summit that included both U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

But we should be wary of the idea that the Prime Minister could or should have weighed in to cancel the arrest because of its impact on Canada-China relations. That would set a precedent whereby all future extradition requests concerning China, and – ultimately – any other country big enough to make life difficult for us, would follow a separate, political decision-making track. This would be exploited by China and other rising powers, and risk transforming Canada into a safe haven for fraudsters, sanction evaders and human-rights violators.

We should be equally dismissive of the objection that China’s consular officials weren’t informed of the arrest in a timely manner. When I served as ambassador, China was notoriously cavalier about informing us, even months later, of the arrest of Canadian citizens, particularly those of Chinese origin. Chinese officials were notified of Ms. Meng’s arrest in a fraction of the time they typically take to inform us when a Canadian is arrested.

That said, beyond simply advising the Chinese of the arrest, we probably should have reached out quickly to more senior Chinese officials to explain what had happened and where things might go. But given that our communicator-in-chief at that point was John McCallum, our garrulous former ambassador, it probably wouldn’t have helped much.

Ultimately, it’s hard not to feel that the tight time frame for decision making was a blessing, enabling us to do the right thing before other, less-principled agendas had time to emerge. They were not long in appearing. We should not underestimate how much more difficult managing the issue became once various high-level Ottawa insiders began to talk up the idea of abandoning the extradition process. It’s no wonder the Chinese were seriously confused – so were most Canadians.

Taking stock today, what’s most discouraging is our persistent failure to learn from the painful experiences of a difficult year, despite the fact that we’ve spent that time uncharacteristically focused on China. There has been a lot to take in. Along with the cruel detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, we’ve witnessed almost daily examples of Chinese brutality in Xinjiang and repression in Hong Kong, and mounting evidence of Beijing’s interference around the world. Yet, Ottawa continues to treat China as an old friend with whom we’ve had a temporary falling out.

We did the right thing a year ago, and we’re still doing it when it comes to Ms. Meng, who is, unlike our detained Canadians, being treated fairly and with respect. And we’re still paying the price China now exacts from any country that values the rule of law over the rule of Beijing – a new reality whose implications, a full year later, continue to elude us.

Source: A year ago, Ottawa did the right thing by arresting Meng Wanzhou. We’re still paying the price: David Mulroney

Former Canadian ambassador suggests registry to help identify foreign agents

Hard to disagree:

A veteran of Canada’s diplomatic corps is urging the creation of a federal registry, modelled on one in Australia, to shed light on the work Canadians, including former senior public officials, are doing on behalf of foreign governments.

David Mulroney, who worked for 32 years in the Canadian foreign service, including as Canada’s ambassador to China, said there’s an increasing risk today that foreign governments are using Canadians to mould public opinion and lawmaking here.

“It is not being alarmist to suggest that foreign countries continue to seek influence in Canada and that some are even willing to interfere covertly in Canadian affairs. If anything, the threat is growing,” Mr. Mulroney said in an interview.

What he’s proposing is that Canadians paid to lobby or communicate political messages on behalf of foreign states or enterprises owned by a foreign government would be required to disclose their activities in a federal registry. He said his proposal goes far beyond the scope of the existing federal lobbyists registry, which he says has loopholes that do not capture all activity he believes should be brought to light.

Mr. Mulroney said the rise of China as an economic and geopolitical power has added urgency to the question of foreign interference and influence. “China’s Communist Party has well-developed mechanisms for influencing political opinion in foreign countries,” he said.

He said he was unwilling to comment on individual cases, but stated that, under his proposal, virtually any work undertaken by former Canadian officials for China’s state-owned corporations would need to be disclosed in a registry.

New foreign-influence transparency laws took effect recently in Australia. The rules came in response to concerns about Chinese government influence in Australian politics.

Under Mr. Mulroney’s proposal, former cabinet ministers would be required to register almost all work – not just lobbying – that they are doing for foreign governments or related entities. Mr. Mulroney argues that international work promoting Canadian values and interests – such as humanitarian work – would remain exempt, but all other employment in which a foreign state is seeking to benefit from the knowledge, experience or contacts a former minister gained while serving Canada would need to be reported. The obligation would last their lifetime.

Former senior public servants, including deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers and ambassadors, would face the same high bar for registration, but only for 15 years.

Mr. Mulroney is publishing his proposal in a paper through the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an Ottawa-based think tank.

Ward Elcock, a former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and former deputy minister of National Defence, said he supports Mr. Mulroney’s proposed registry.

“There are foreign governments who did have an interest in influencing Canadian public policy in one way or another and, yes, I think transparency is required,” he said.

However, Mr. Elcock said a registry won’t help if former politicians or senior bureaucrats attempt to hide their affiliation with foreign governments or state-owned enterprises.

Richard Fadden, another former director of CSIS, said he broadly supports Mr. Mulroney’s proposal.

Mr. Fadden, who was also national security adviser to prime ministers Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau, said he thinks however that China is “far from the only country for us to worry about” and would like to see the registration requirements also apply to Canadian military ranks down to the Canadian Armed Forces equivalent of an assistant deputy minister.

Mr. Mulroney is proposing two extra measures on top of what Australia has done.

Any Canadians serving on federal government boards, agencies, foundations or councils in Canada would be prohibited from working for foreign governments or related entities for the duration of their appointment. It would also require Canadians to relinquish membership in what is called the Queen’s Privy Council, which is a lifetime designation granted to prime ministers, cabinet ministers and chief justices of Canada.

Mr. Fadden doesn’t support requiring Canadians in the Queen’s Privy Council to relinquish membership if they work for a foreign government.

He said if a former senior public official is, for instance, working for Britain to help promote a bilateral trade deal with Canada they shouldn’t be forced to give up the P.C. designation.

Stockwell Day, a former Conservative cabinet minister and vice-chair of the Canada China Business Council, a lobby group, said the proposed registry is not needed given existing rules against lobbying that remain in place for half a decade after leaving office.

Mr. Day said he could see the registry becoming a “nightmarish bureaucratic overburden trying to report working arrangements of individuals 15 years after they have been in office” and predicted the law would almost certainly also be challenged in court “as an unconstitutional restriction on the right to work.”

Mr. Mulroney said however that existing lobbying registry rules do not cover the sort of disclosure he’s proposing. “Think about the possibility of a former, or even a current politician taking talking points from a foreign government. … If you are speaking or disseminating information on behalf of a foreign entity, you need to be clear about your sources. Otherwise you mislead Canadians.”

Source:   Politics Former Canadian ambassador suggests registry to help identify foreign agents Subscriber content Steven Chase September 23    

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

With lives at stake, Canada’s misguided vision of China demands a careful reboot: David Mulroney

Another good column by Mulroney. His reference to the naiveté of diaspora politics, highlighted, particularly relevant given recent instances of Chinese government activity in Canada (e.g., Student groups call for Ottawa to investigate alleged interference by Chinese officials on Canadian campuses):

Canada’s primary foreign-policy challenge with China has been clear for months now. We have to secure the freedom of detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and save the lives of fellow Canadians Robert Schellenberg and Fan Wei, who face death sentences from a murky Chinese legal system that takes instruction from the Chinese state. Our message to allies is clear, too: we all have a stake in pushing back against a China that uses hostage diplomacy, economic blackmail and even the threat of execution to achieve its objectives.

But there’s another equally challenging China task on the horizon. We need to start thinking about what we’ve learned from this terrible episode, and how it should shape our future relationship with China.

We’re not very good at this. The natural inclination of every bureaucracy in times of crisis is to restore the status quo ante. This happens for a variety of reasons, among them the fact that reviving an old strategy is a lot easier than thinking up a new one. But we’re also still in the grips of a misguided vision of China, one especially dear to the Canadian governing and business classes, that naively embraces almost everything that Beijing has on offer.

The current government refers to this as “comprehensive engagement,” something former ambassador John McCallum rendered more descriptively for Chinese audiences with the phrase geng duo, meaning “even more.” Just about any idea was worth considering, was the implication – as long as it lived up to our Olympian ambitions.

Few former diplomats, including this one, can claim to have entirely resisted the geng duo impulse to substitute promotion for policy. But given the undeniable evidence of China’s hostility to core Canadian interests, starting with the safety of our citizens, we urgently need to reconsider our approach.

There is no shutting the door to China, which is increasingly central to our prosperity and to solving threats to the environment, global health and food safety. But we will have to be much more thoughtful about how we do this, moving from comprehensive engagement to something smarter and more tailored to our objectives and vulnerabilities.

The days of indiscriminately encouraging China-bound travel and pumping Canadian delegations into China, a state that capriciously detains foreigners, are over. We should start by skipping events dedicated to China’s boundless appetite for international self-promotion or the delusion that China is a democracy in the making.

We also need to think carefully about trade and investment promotion, particularly in sectors like canola, where China’s immense demand gives it leverage over us. We need to work even harder at finding new markets, and doing more processing here in Canada to add value to what we sell. China seems to find economic blackmail easiest with commodities.

It’s also time to re-examine the received wisdom that shapes our China strategy, purging it of a sort of malware encouraged by China to delude the naive. This includes such fictions as the idea that China is inherently peaceful and has no territorial ambitions, that it abides by a policy of non-interference in other countries, that trade is a favour it bestows on friendly nations, and that access to its leaders is an end and reward in itself.

The idea that our China policy tends to be highly corrupted by these falsehoods is proven by our enduring gullibility on two important counts. The first is the idea that Canadians of Chinese origin are something of a shared bilateral resource, and that members of this community have a responsibility to help their fellow citizens better understand China. This fits hand-in-glove with the Canadian penchant for diaspora politics, and opens the door to Chinese interference.

The second powerful myth is that China is so uniquely sensitive that, no matter what it does, any response other than abject silence is hurtful and dangerously counterproductive. This has contributed to persistent Canadian passivity in the face of outrageous behaviour.

Getting China right will be particularly difficult for a Liberal government that has, to put it charitably, struggled with foreign policy. The government approaches the world beyond our borders with the inexplicable conviction that other countries are either as progressive as Liberal voters or aspire to be. This is wrong, and dangerously so.

We simply can’t postpone a rethink of our approach to China, and we must finally be open to the idea that, when it comes to engaging Beijing, smarter is better than comprehensive – and less is almost certainly better than more.

Source: With lives at stake, Canada’s misguided vision of China demands a careful reboot David Mulroney May 1, 2019     

Trudeau is delivering the foreign policy Canadians deserve: David Mulroney

Good commentary by our former Ambassador to China (and former foreign service colleague of mine). Not unique to Chinese and Indo-Canadians, comparable issues arise with respect to Ukrainian Canadians and Canadian Jews with respect to foreign policy:

The best that can be said about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India is that it may prompt a review, if not a complete rethinking of a Canadian foreign policy that appears to be seriously off the rails. We have some hard lessons to learn.

At the very least, the Prime Minister’s debacle in India should encourage smart people in Ottawa to zero in on what isn’t working.

Most worrying is a fundamental and puzzling failure at the level of policy implementation, something that appears to be compounded by the Prime Minister’s own impetuosity. Flying to India before the big meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in the bag, much like heading off to Beijing on a free-trade themed visit without any reasonable expectation that a deal was doable, exposes Mr. Trudeau to a degree of prolonged public skepticism that comes to define the visit itself.

Ottawa’s obsession with exotic photo-ops is a less likely candidate for serious review, given its long and undistinguished lineage through such past devotees as Stephen Harper and Jean Chrétien. But we can at least hope that the Trudeau version of this practice may get dialled down. Through his rapid succession of exotic costume changes, Mr. Trudeau managed to do to his own image what Alec Baldwin does, through similarly comic exaggeration, to Donald Trump’s on Saturday Night Live.

Even harder to banish will be our obsession with diaspora politics. No one is denying that we derive wonderful advantages from our multicultural society. But other multicultural countries, such as the United States, Australia and Britain, are far less inclined to view their international interests so completely through the prism of diaspora communities. We need to understand that Canada’s interests in India are not entirely the same as those of influential portions of the Indo-Canadian community or of the Sikh-Canadian subset of that community. Worse, our continuing insistence on the political importance of diaspora groups makes it more likely that their countries of origin – and this is particularly true of China and India – will be inclined to interfere in Canadian affairs.

These persistent problems point to an inconvenient truth: The problem isn’t with politicians, it’s with all of us. We’re getting the foreign policy we deserve. We seem unable to grasp that our engagement of countries such as India and China ultimately needs to be about something more than reminding them of how much they admire us.

India isn’t our friend. It is a rising regional power beset with a range of domestic problems, including serious human rights issues. It takes a prickly approach to global issues that is often at odds with traditional Canadian policies in areas ranging from trade policy to nuclear disarmament.

The Indian diplomats I worked with could be wonderfully pleasant after the official day was done. But, for the most part, they brought a formidably ruthless precision to their pursuit of India’s interests in the world. While they might ultimately agree to grant Canada a concession, this was always a product of hard and often heated negotiations. They never conceded a point because they liked us or because we are home to a large Indo-Canadian community.

My experience with Chinese diplomats was entirely similar.

Long before the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, it should have been clear to us that the world is changing in ways that do not align with traditional Canadian views, interests and values. If we’re smart, the rise of countries like China and India can certainly contribute to our prosperity, and with hard work, we should be able to find common cause on important issues such as global warming.

But the rise of these assertive and ambitious Asian powers will almost certainly challenge global and regional security. Both will also continue to reject traditional Canadian notions about global governance and human rights, and neither will be particularly squeamish about interfering in Canadian affairs.

The Trump era should convince us that we can no longer rely entirely on the protective cover of a globally engaged America. We need to be smart and hard-nosed when it comes to promoting and defending our own interests. Photo ops and costume changes won’t cut it any more.

via Trudeau is delivering the foreign policy Canadians deserve – The Globe and Mail

What happened to Canada’s support of democratic rights in Hong Kong? [expatriate voting aspect] – David Mulroney

Good column by former colleague and former Ambassador to China David Mulroney on Hong Kong and support for democratic rights.

And appropriate put-down of the Government’s Bill C-33, and its provision to grant indefinite voting rights without any corresponding commitment and responsibility:

Mr. Patten was particularly scathing in his commentary about independence advocates, whose campaign, he said, “dilutes support for democracy.” This was interpreted as criticism of two lawmakers, supporters of independence, who have been forced to vacate their seats. The duo had refused to take the official oath of office, substituting wording that could be considered offensive to China. Their actions sparked legal intervention by China’s government even before Hong Kong’s own courts could consider the issue.

It’s hard to argue with Mr. Patten’s assessment. Pushing for Hong Kong’s independence is wildly unrealistic and, given China’s sensitivity and volatility, irresponsible. But it is also an understandable expression of local frustrations given how little effort has been devoted to exploring more moderate options for democratic governance. If Hong Kong’s leaders, and friends such as Britain and Canada, had remained true to the vision of one country, two systems, the city’s residents would today have at least some say in charting their future. Instead, they are condemned to a form of governance in which they are asked to take up the responsibilities of citizenship without the corresponding rights.

The reverse is true for that fortunate minority among Hong Kong’s seven million residents who also happen to be Canadian citizens. The recently-introduced Bill C-33, which amends the Canada Elections Act, would offer the right to vote to all Canadians residing overseas, as long as they have lived in Canada at some point. It eliminates a previous provision that restricted voting rights to expatriates who had been absent for fewer than five years. The bill is big news in Hong Kong, where a Canadian community of roughly 300,000 includes emigrants to Canada who have since returned, and Canadian-born expats lured by Hong Kong’s low-tax, business-friendly environment.

Passage of the bill will encourage much chest-thumping about Canada’s support for democracy, but it is hard not to see in this something slightly different. Ottawa is offering up one of the most important rights of citizenship, the right to vote in elections back home, without reference to any corresponding responsibilities. This is politically astute, but not particularly courageous. Real support for democracy requires more ambition and more honesty.

Britain, Canada and other democracies have not lived up to their 1997 commitments, failing to follow up with the training programs, institutional exchanges and official encouragement that could have assisted the gradual emergence of healthy democratic institutions in Hong Kong. And they neglected to hold China accountable for its own commitments.

Source: What happened to Canada’s support of democratic rights in Hong Kong? – The Globe and Mail

David Mulroney warns Canada should apply Afghanistan’s lessons to Iraq

Sound advice:

A former top official on Canada’s work in Afghanistan is warning against getting too involved in Iraq without clear and realistic objectives.

David Mulroney, who served as the deputy minister in charge of the Afghanistan Task Force, said Canada hasn’t looked closely enough at its experience in Afghanistan.

“When I recently saw Foreign Minister [Rob] Nicholson musing that we’d apply some of the lessons of Afghanistan to our engagement, I kind of sat bolt upright because I think one of the problems is we haven’t spent much time learning the lessons of Afghanistan,” Mulroney said in an interview to air Saturday at 9 a.m. on CBC Radio’s The House.

Mulroney said a newly released audit shows “how hard it was to get that development assistance and humanitarian assistance right in a place where none of the officials were really clear about what Canada’s objectives were.”

Mulroney also served as secretary to the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan, which was led by former foreign affairs minister John Manley, and as foreign and defence policy adviser to the prime minister.

He said the lack of discussion about Afghanistan toward the end of the 10-year mission has kept Canadians from learning key lessons, which include being realistic about how much Canada doesn’t know about a region and setting “often very modest” goals.

Mulroney also said Canada needs an exit strategy.

“When does it happen for us and who’s around to pick up the pieces of what we’ve put in place. Until we’ve really talked honestly about that, I’d be very worried about our ability to pull something off in a place that’s as challenging as that nexus of Iraq and Syria.”

He also warned the government has to think about how the humanitarian, military and diplomatic pieces fit together.

“If it’s being done now, this is the time to tell Canadians that people have thought about that. Because if it hasn’t been done, we’ll get the same ultimately disappointing results that audit points to on Afghanistan.”

David Mulroney warns Canada should apply Afghanistan’s lessons to Iraq – Politics – CBC News.

And a good short interview with him in the Globe:

 How would you characterize the tension between diplomats and political staffers nowadays?

The truth is that public servants now serve a concierge function. They get difficult things done on the basis of careful instruction. So you focus on managing events, like visits, and then you report back to headquarters, but then you feel increasingly bullied. By the end of my career I’d written the same report on Sino-Canadian relations a dozen times. It was time to go.

In what specific way did Ottawa make you feel discouraged?

On the [Chinese social media site] Weibo we hosted a discussion about the case of Lai Changxing, [a fugitive to whom Canada gave refuge].

The other was about the official car I drove, which generated a real discussion about how what kind of accountability officials should be held to.

But there was complete silence from Ottawa, the kind that indicates disapproval. There was nothing they could hold against us because there were too many positives, including two editorials in The Globe. In the end though we turned the way embassies communicate on their head.

David Mulroney on pandas, the PM and Chinese-Canadian relations

Harper inadequate, inconsistent on China, former adviser says

Former Canadian Ambassador to Beijing, and Foreign Policy Advisor to PM, David Mulroney on the Harper Government. Picks up many of the same themes in my book Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism (disclosure David is a former colleague of mine):

David Mulroney, Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, says Canada should boost its economic and diplomatic ties with China and even reinforce its naval presence off the west coast to show its serious about being a player in the region.

But Harper has failed to show adequate leadership and has been wildly inconsistent, with periods of estrangement and hostility followed by flurries of activity to try to woo Beijing, according to the ex-diplomat.

Government policy is too often directed by political partisans with “extreme ideological” agendas, who are motivated only by the goal of winning votes in immigrant communities in Canada.

“We need leadership from the top,” writes Mulroney, who was named Harper’s senior foreign and defence policy adviser when the Conservatives took power in 2006.

His book Middle Power, Middle Kingdom, to be published later this month by Penguin Canada, is likely to be controversial. His concern about Chinese money boosting housing costs in cities like Vancouver, reported in Tuesday’s Vancouver Sun, led to number of readers to contact The Sun sharing those concerns.

Mulroney, now at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, is particularly critical of Canadian prime ministers — and especially Harper — who have used foreign policy to win favour with diaspora groups within Canada.

He said political leaders in countries such as India and China are decidedly unimpressed when a prime minister shows up with Canadian MPs returning to their, or their ancestors’, country of origin.

He said Harper is treating foreign leaders as “mere props” participating in “photo opportunities” aimed at ethnic media back in Canada.

“It would be naive and undemocratic to argue that domestic politics has no place in our foreign policy,” he writes. “But political leaders need to rely on something more than the most recent polling data in navigating international issues.”

Mulroney also challenges the Harper government’s “increasing preference” for rhetoric — “the more extreme the better” — over behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

“The resulting ‘megaphone diplomacy’ is gratifying to some audiences at home, but it erodes and undercuts whatever real influence Canada might have had.”

He says Canada’s approach to China needed an overhaul when the Liberals were ousted in 2006, as the Liberal “Team Canada” trade mission strategy had become outdated. Mulroney also argues that China’s human rights violations were becoming increasingly problematic for Canadians, and that the federal Liberal party under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin was “equally unbalanced on the side of unwarranted optimism and uncritical acceptance” of China.

And he in no way underplays China’s dark side, pointing out that China aggressively spies in Canada.

And Beijing also undermines long-standing work by Canada and other western countries in promoting democratic values in developing countries.

“China does support odious regimes, and it is a challenger of the liberal international order.”

The author, who notes that Harper and many of his ministers and aides have long treated Canadian diplomats as “incompetent and politically unreliable” closet Liberals, also acknowledges that some of his foreign service colleagues aren’t faultless.

“They contributed to this caricature through their own inability to fully respect the concerns that motivated the newly elected government.”

But he says Conservative mistrust of its bureaucratic advisers went to strange lengths, and cites the close relationship between former Foreign Minister John Baird and China’s former ambassador to Canada, Zhang Junsai.

Baird was unusually candid with the diplomat about Canada’s objectives — a frankness which wasn’t reciprocated — and the two consulted closely during and after Baird’s trips to China while senior Canadian diplomats were left out.

My favourite line:

“It was as if it was more damning to be suspected of having liberal sympathies than it was to actually be a Communist, and as if the Canadian government was intent on conducting foreign policy without its public service.”

via Harper inadequate, inconsistent on China, former adviser says.