Beijing: Canada’s China Election Meddling Probe ‘Absurd,’ May Lead to ‘Pathological’ Public

NUSA DUA, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 15: President Xi Jinping of China attends a working session on food and energy security during the G20 Summit on November 15, 2022 in Nusa Dua, Indonesia. The G20 meetings are being held in Bali from November 15-16. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images,)
David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images, Leon Neal/Getty Images

China’s Foreign Ministry and its state-run Global Times propaganda newspaper decried Canadian officials for calling for an investigation into Communist Party election interference, dismissing the minimal probe organized by far-left Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “absurd” on Wednesday.

Trudeau and his leftist Liberal Party have faced years of accusations of inappropriate ties to the Chinese government and Chinese regime-linked businessmen stemming back to 2016. In February, however, a report in the Globe and Mail, citing alleged leaks out of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), rekindled interest in the subject as the newspaper alleged that intelligence officials believed China was operating a sophisticated apparatus to sway election results against Conservative Party candidates.

Both the Conservatives and the New Democratic Party (NDP), to the left of the Liberal Party, have expressed extreme concern regarding the leaks and demanded a public investigation into the matter — a demand Trudeau has not granted. Trudeau instead announced plans on Monday, amid significant pressure, to appoint a “special rapporteur” to investigate the leaks. Canada Elections Commissioner Caroline Simard announced that the top electoral oversight commission in the country would launch its own investigation into the matter, but that process would be confidential and necessarily smaller than a full-scale probe ordered by Trudeau as opposition parties requested.

The Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly denied any attempts to sway the results of Canadian elections. On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning was asked to comment on Trudeau’s “special rapporteur” plan; Mao had not held her daily briefing on the Tuesday following the announcement as Foreign Minister Qin Gang held an extended press conference that day.

“China always opposes interference in other countries’ internal affairs. We have no interest in and will not interfere in Canada’s internal affairs,” Mao said. “It’s absurd that some in Canada are making an issue about China based on disinformation and lies.”

The Global Times, China’s most belligerent English-language government newspaper, cited “experts” who predicted that any inquiry into the evidence that Beijing had interfered in Canadian elections would tarnish Canada’s reputation, allegedly by making it appear to be a loyal pawn of the United States. The newspaper accused Trudeau of attempting “to coordinate Canada’s diplomatic strategy to match that of the US by creating an unfriendly atmosphere toward China among the Canadian public.”

“This will harm Canada’s national image, reducing it to the status of a ‘US follower,’ observers warned,” according to the Times.

The main “observer” in question was one professor, Li Haidong, a regular quoted on the pages of the newspaper to attack the United States. Li claimed that “Canada is trying very hard to create an unfriendly atmosphere in its society by hyping up negative issues related to China.” He suggested election interference was an issue that could “easily stimulate society to form an irrational and pathological impression,” so investigating evidence of interference was irresponsible.

“Canadian politicians want their people to believe that China is a country that can’t be trusted,” Li claimed. “If Canada continues to follow US foreign policy in this way, when people think of Canada, they will think of a US follower. Such a move would be detrimental to both the improvement of China-Canadian relations and Canada’s international image.”

The Canadian news reports, citing Canadian intelligence sources, indicating Chinese government interference address the 2019 and 2021 legislative elections. The Canadian broadcaster Global News highlighted one particular case in its reporting: the 2019 election of Liberal Party member of Parliament Han Dong. In February, Global News claimed that Liberal Party officials had reason to believe that Han was “a witting affiliate in China’s election interference networks” with close ties to Chinese government officials in the Toronto consulate.

“I am unaware of the claims provided to you by alleged sources, which contains seriously inaccurate information,” Dong told Global News in response to its reporting.

Trudeau, meanwhile, stood by Dong – one of 11 lawmakers Global News claimed that intelligence officials had identified as potential Chinese government affiliates. The other ten have not been named at press time publicly.

“I want to make everyone understand fully that Han Dong is an outstanding member of our team and suggestions that he is somehow not loyal to Canada should not be entertained,” Trudeau said in February.

In response to the allegations, top elections official Caroline Simard launched a review of known information on the elections.

“I am seized with the importance of this issue … as well as the need to reassure Canadians under these exceptional circumstances,” Simard said last Thursday. “We have conducted a rigorous and thorough review of every complaint and every piece of information that has been brought to our attention concerning allegations of foreign interference. This review is ongoing as I speak, to see if there’s tangible evidence of wrongdoing under the Canada Elections Act.”

Trudeau has refused to mount a public inquiry into the issue. On Monday, he announced the investment of $5.5 million into “combatting disinformation” and the appointment of a “special rapporteur” to address the alleged election interference. The “special rapporteur” would be selected at an unspecified date through an unclear process to ensure their independence.

“We know disinformation often generated abroad can be a real threat to our elections and it’s a threat that the federal government cannot combat alone,” Trudeau said at the time.

Asked directly how much of the allegations in the leaked intelligence reports he knew about at the time and what he did with that information, Trudeau appeared to avoid the question entirely.

“One of the reasons that we are putting in place the special rapporteur on top of the work and the full access that [Canadian intelligence] … will have access and have access to all top secret documents, all briefings that might have been made or could have been made or were not made,” Trudeau said. “The process around this remains something that we have to make sure is looked at by parliamentarians and experts who have proper security clearance.”

“It is of concern to people that china continues, and other countries, are interfering in our democratic processes,” Trudeau added.

In addition to a united NDP and Conservative opposition call for a public inquiry, Trudeau is beginning to face internal Liberal pressure to forcefully address China as a threat to the state.

“The government of China is an existential threat to Canada on a multiplicity of levels,” Liberal member of Parliament John McKay said on Wednesday. “We need as a nation to come to grips with the desire of the government of China to turn us all into bastard states.”

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