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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

CHINA: ESPIONAGE

Canada called easy target for spies
Country likely houses hundreds of Chinese agents, former diplomat says

No kidding! The Toronto Star covered this story here.

Globe and Mail:COLIN FREEZE TORONTO - June 6, 2007- A Chinese defector who once estimated that 1,000 Chinese agents are operating in Australia says that Canada likely has a comparable amount within its borders.

Chen Yonglin is an outspoken former diplomat who successfully sought political asylum in Australia. In an interview in Toronto yesterday, he said that China is likely using the kinds of tactics to quash expatriate dissent in Canada that he was asked to use while posted in Australia. He is to hold a news conference today in Ottawa.

"Canada has 'soft ribs,' " said Mr. Chen, 38, using a colloquialism that means it doesn't have much armour around its sensitive state organs. Given the size of the Chinese-Canadian population, the country's advanced technology and the relative ease of immigration compared to the United States, he said it is safe to assume a high degree of penetration by Chinese agents.

Canadian politicians and intelligence agencies are expressing alarm about the level of Chinese espionage and interference, a situation that may reflect Beijing's preoccupation with domestic dissent. Groups sometimes known to China as the "Five Poisons" - pro-democracy and pro-Taiwan groups, activists for the Uyghur and Tibetan ethnic minorities, and the Falun Gong religious movement - are all seen as threats to one-party rule. The challenge for Beijing is to control these groups at home - and abroad.

Since his 2005 defection, Mr. Chen has proved a godsend for the Falun Gong and a bit of a public-relations nightmare for China, which has long persecuted members of the movement, which it calls an "evil cult." Canadian Falun Gong members are facilitating this week's public appearances of Mr. Chen, who says he is a Christian supporter of the movement's principles.

Generally, his allegations of Chinese interference made since his defection during appearances in G8 states and legislatures have been treated as credible. From 2001 to 2005, he served as the consul for political affairs in Sydney. He says he quit because he could no longer listen to directives to harass the Falun Gong.

"I didn't do it well," said Mr. Chen yesterday, reflecting on his disruption campaigns. His marching orders? "Monitor their activities, collect their personal information, list them onto blacklists and run campaigns against them," he said. Diplomats, he said, are also told to urge local MPs and elites that the "Falun Gong is a cult and they should keep a distance. Any relationship with the Falun Gong will damage bilateral relations."

Westerners, he argued, are becoming too blinded by the prospect of economic opportunity to see human-rights abuses, and China's political system is becoming more tenuous. He added that many foreigners also don't understand the subtle nature of Chinese spying.

An embassy might house a handful of professional spies, who focus on traditional jobs like stealing nuclear, government or high-tech secrets, he said. Yet legions of other Chinese nationals do some of the work too.

"In the Chinese model, there are professionals, but also a large number of informants working overseas," Mr. Chen said. Students and state-backed businessmen are prevailed upon to snoop around on Beijing's behalf. He even alleges that diplomatic mail bags full of U.S. dollars are routinely sent to embassies so officials can buy influence and finance networks of informants who keep dissidents in check.

Australian politicians who weighed Mr. Chen's allegations in 2005 found his testimony compelling - a picture of "largely unchecked surveillance and, at times, harassment of Australian citizens" according to one senator - although other officials questioned some of his more sensational allegations.

Secret war in Canada

The ideological war between Chinese officials and the Falun Gong is increasingly being waged on Canadian soil.

MAY, 2007: Falun Gong members serve a Chinese minister with a crimes-against-humanity lawsuit while he visits Ottawa.

APRIL, 2007: The head of Canadian intelligence says that his whole counterespionage division spends almost half its efforts on Chinese spies.

MARCH, 2007: A diplomat's wife - a Falun Gong convert - defects to Canada. She holds a press conference announcing she has documents showing that embassy officials conspired to block the Canadian regulators from approving a pro-Falun Gong TV station.

NOVEMBER, 2006: Canada refuses to renew the visa of a Chinese diplomat. The Falun-Gong-friendly Epoch Times reports the education officer had been harassing the movement's members.

JUNE, 2004: Complaints by Falun Gong members lead the Edmonton Police Service to initiate a hate-crimes investigation against two people, including one said to be a consular official, accused of handing out pamphlets titled "The Cult Nature of Falun Gong."

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