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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ex-envoy warns of Chinese spies

Huge network of secret agents' tries to influence governments, including Canada's, defector says

Be vigilant Canada--time to ruffle China's feathers a bit. Look here for more media coverage.

Toronto Star: Olivia Ward - Jun 06, 2007 04:30 AM - Chen Yonglin came to Canada with a diplomat's manner, a case full of documents and a tough message about China's activities abroad.

"China has a huge network of secret agents, and it is working hard to influence governments, including Canada's," says the former Chinese consul for political affairs who defected in Australia two years ago.

"It infiltrates the Chinese community and also puts pressure on groups that it considers the enemy, like Falun Gong, democracy activists and others."

Chen, a soft-spoken 39-year-old, who heads the Chinese Dissidents Association of Australia, was in Toronto yesterday, and will speak today in Ottawa.

But his dramatic defection from the Sydney consulate in May 2005 made diplomatic waves around the world, which deepened when he appeared at a rally a few days later and announced that he would reveal details of a Chinese spying program in Australia.

Chen said he went into hiding with his wife and daughter after he was forced to campaign against Falun Gong and pro-democracy dissidents and discovered that they were "really good people." Falun Gong is a controversial spiritual sect that has been repressed by Beijing as "anti Chinese."

"I wanted to pursue freedom, and this was against my conscience," said Chen, whose father died in jail after a beating during the Cultural Revolution.

On his visit to Canada he brought with him a portfolio of Chinese documents that he said were evidence of China's spying campaign in Australia – including a "blacklist" of high-profile Australians who were being monitored for their "negative" attitudes to China. They included a deputy mayor and the head of the Australian United Nations Association.

He said China's "treatment of dissidents in other countries is an extension of their domestic politics."

China "uses the same methods in Western countries" including Canada to exert influence over issues that are politically sensitive, he said. Among them are Tibet, Taiwan and the Uigars of western China.

Beijing recently rebuked Ottawa for allowing MPs to visit Taiwan, which it considers part of China, along with Tibet. It was angered by Ottawa's decision to award honorary citizenship to the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. Ottawa has also locked horns with China over the case of Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen who has been jailed for life in China on terrorism charges.

The Chinese Embassy did not respond to a request for comment. But in the past, China has angrily rejected allegations of spying and industrial espionage in Canada.

But last month Jim Judd, head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service told a Senate committee that Beijing was at the top of a list of 12 countries trying to uncover politician and economic secrets in Canada and said "China accounts for close to 50 per cent of our counter-intelligence program." CSIS has also accused Beijing of waging a "hearts and minds" campaign by creating cultural institutes to spread its message.

"As China rises as a world power it perceives its interests in the typical way of great powers," says China expert Bruce Gilley, an associate professor of political studies at Queen's University. "It doesn't feel it needs to play by the rules."

In the U.S., he said, there are a "steady stream of prosecutions" of people with ties to China for espionage. Last month, three were convicted of conspiring to pass information about American naval technology to China.

But Chen said, the most serious issue is China's persecution of its suspected enemies.

"Human rights is most important. The (Stephen) Harper government has balanced human rights and trade. But it is something that should be a long-term effort. The government should not allow human rights to be compromised."

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