Another Chinese Group Faces Member Backlash After Taking Pro-Beijing Position

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Another Chinese Canadian organization in Toronto is facing internal backlash after it publicly took a stance favourable to Beijing.

Some members of the Chinese Professionals Association of Canada (CPAC) have publicly criticized the group’s leadership for penning a commentary that criticized the Foreign Interference Commission’s May 3 interim report that documented Beijing’s interference in Canada’s federal elections. 

This follows an incident in 2020 where the executive chair of the Council of Newcomer Organizations (CONCO), another organization in the Chinese community, drew criticism from the group’s member associations for pro-Beijing remarks he made on behalf of the group.

CPAC’s May 10 Chinese-language commentary, titled “Chinese Canadians Are Capable of Making Their Own Decisions,” referred to the public discussions after the publication of the commission’s report, and rejected the interpretation that interference by Beijing cost former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu his B.C. riding seat in the 2021 election. The riding was one of those noted by the commission as having experienced irregularities during the election. The commission’s report said Mr. Chiu, along with then-Tory Leader Erin O'Toole—both of whom are outspoken critics of the Beijing regime—were targets of a misinformation campaign.

“The claim that the Chinese government can influence a large number of Chinese Canadian voters and thus change the results of elections in multiple constituencies has never been tenable,” the commentary said. The organization’s executive director, Andi Shi, published a similar commentary in English in the Hill Times on May 13.

Responding to the May 10 commentary, a longtime CPAC member published his own op-ed in a Chinese-language website on May 14, rejecting CPAC’s commentary and expressing frustration that the association claiming to represent “30,000 professionals” would write a commentary “rife with mistakes.”

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“As Chinese people and Chinese organizations in Canada, we must be clear on this: Should we guard our new home after leaving our homeland and protect its democratic institutions, or should we help foreign forces to wreak havoc and make Canada a country that we have to flee again?” the May 14 op-ed read.

In an interview with The Epoch Times, the author of the op-ed, who provided his name only as Remington out of a precaution, said CPAC shouldn’t have written the May 10 commentary on behalf of all members.

“In writing this commentary, [the author] could only represent the author’s own personal views. The author cannot represent the entire association because the author did not conduct any surveys or gather any feedback within the association. The author didn’t check whether everyone agreed to publish this article in the name of the association. The author essentially hijacked the 30,000 Chinese members to endorse the author’s own viewpoint,” Mr. Remington, a civil engineer in Alberta, told The Epoch Times.

Another CPAC member, Jonathan Fon, said it was wrong for CPAC to publish a commentary with such a position.

He said that many new Chinese immigrants to Canada initially get attracted to join CPAC because they can enjoy group benefits, such as lower insurance rates. He says it appears that CPAC leadership was attempting to form an outlet to voice certain positions aligned with Beijing, but that this attempt has now been a failure given the public backlash.

“I don’t think their attempt has worked,” Mr. Fon, a veteran journalist, told The Epoch Times.  Mr. Fon published his own op-ed outlining his opposition to the CPAC commentary in the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times on May 15. 

The Epoch Times reached out to CPAC and Mr. Shi for comment but didn’t hear back.

‘Rejecting Pro-CCP Practices’

Beijing critic and democracy activist Sheng Xue, speaking to The Epoch Times, noted the trend of Chinese Canadians resisting misrepresentation by organizations adopting a pro-Beijing stance on behalf of their members. She said that as Canadian society becomes more vigilant and opposed to the interference and transnational repression of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), more individuals are now daring to speak up.

“Increasing numbers of Chinese Canadians, especially the second generation, are unwilling to continue being subject to CCP interference and control. They are increasingly rejecting both the CCP’s manipulations and the pro-CCP practices within the Chinese community,” Ms. Sheng said.

Ms. Sheng highlighted frequent interactions between CPAC leadership and the Chinese Consulate in Toronto.

In October 2022, CPAC president Ti Wang met then-Chinese Consul-General Han Tao at a virtual meeting after Mr. Wang was elected to the position, according to a consulate press release. They discussed promoting Canada-China relations within the Chinese community, including joint efforts to combat COVID-19, the release said. The two continued to interact on other occasions, including at CPAC’s 2022 Chinese New Year forum where the consul-general said China’s achievements are thanks to the CCP.

More recently, CPAC and Mr. Wang received Chinese state media coverage in a June 2023 article that said many Chinese Canadian groups were encouraging fellow Chinese people to attend an upcoming event on Parliament Hill to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923. The act is commonly known as the Chinese Exclusion Act because it resulted from an effort to stop Chinese immigration to Canada. 

While the event was advertised as commemorating the anniversary, organizers actively encouraged opposition to creating a foreign agent registry in Canada, framing it as opposing “anti-Chinese sentiment.” In the June 2023 article, Mr. Wang was reported as encouraging community members to “stand up against racism and any form of racism.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Mr. Wang for comment but didn’t hear back.

Council of Newcomer Organizations

Similar to the members’ backlash against CPAC, former CONCO executive chair Zhu Jiang faced criticism from four co-chairs in 2020 after making pro-Beijing remarks on behalf of CONCO members. This includes attending a Aug. 11, 2019 event, in Markham, Ont., to oppose the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests. 

The co-chairs announced their withdrawal from the group, citing damage to the group’s reputation caused by Mr. Zhu’s remarks among other contentious activities within the organization. Mr. Zhu rejected the criticism and filed a defamation lawsuit against the co-chairs. In a Dec. 4, 2023, court ruling, Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice dismissed Mr. Zhu’s lawsuit, with the judge describing the defendants as “whistleblowers.”

CONCO was founded in 2011 by Geng Tan, a former Liberal MP, before he was elected to Parliament. Before becoming MP, Mr. Tan had held executive positions in several Toronto-area Chinese community groups. CONCO has aligned with Beijing on multiple issues, including the regime’s clampdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

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