Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Hong Kong diaspora group pulls out of foreign interference inquiry citing 'grave concerns'

Hong Kong diaspora group pulls out of foreign interference inquiry citing 'grave concerns'

Feb 21 2024

Article content

OTTAWA — The Canadian Friends of Hong Kong, a non-partisan diaspora group, announced on Tuesday that its members will not take part in the public inquiry into foreign interference in Canada’s elections, citing “grave concerns regarding the objectivity and the security integrity” of the inquiry.

“Specifically, we denounce the granting of full standing to MPs Han Dong and Michael Chan, and intervener standing to Senator Yuen Pau Woo, by Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue,” the group’s press release stated.

The group said it is worried about the type of documents these individuals may have access to with a full or intervening status and what they may do with that information.

“Even if documents are heavily redacted, just the titles of the documents, if seen by our adversaries, will give them a target as they will know what to look for,” the press release stated.

Ivy Li, a member of the CFHK, said the group doesn’t want to give up the “map” on how they defend themselves, how they conduct their research and who their contacts are for fear of repercussions, not only for the group but for national security.

“Every single word is a piece of information and there are people who are good at analyzing this information, so it can pose a threat to those involved and their families and business partners back in China,” she said.

She says the group fears the inquiry itself might be targeted as a tool for foreign interference which could prove “detrimental” for Canada.

Article content

Access to these sensitive documents offered through full or intervening standing puts diaspora group members and their families in danger, said Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a board member for the China Strategic Risks Institute and senior fellow at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.

Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue and her senior policy advisory team don’t “have China experience” nor do they “have a deep understanding of what the Chinese diaspora groups are going through,” she said.

McCuaig-Johnston said the commission will offer support to Dong, Chan, and Woo but “it is not very reassuring that there is no similar support for the diaspora that are being intimidated.”

“Withdrawing standing from these three individuals would go a long way to satisfy the concerns of these diaspora groups,” said McCuaig-Johnston. “In this case, this organization didn’t go in asking for standing because they had so many reservations at the outset so now there are just giving reasons for not participating in the process.”

McCuaig-Johnston also notes that a year is a tight deadline to cover such a “complex issue” and hear from all diaspora groups.

Article content

The inquiry is looking into possible foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections. The first part of the inquiry will focus on alleged interference by China, Russia and other foreign actors and the impact it may have had on the last two federal elections. The second part of the inquiry will look at the federal departments and agencies’ ability “to permit the Government of Canada to detect, deter and counter such interference,” according to the commission’s website.

Court hearings started on Jan. 29, with an interim report expected for May 3. The final report is due on Dec. 31.

The CFHK is the second group to withdraw from the independent inquiry after the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project (URAP) withdrew on Jan. 31. It also stated disappointment in the commissioner for giving full standing to Dong, Chan and Woo.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments always welcome!