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Monday, June 18, 2007

We must stand up for Chinese Canadians

This is an excellent piece by Wesley Wark. Also see a Globe and Mail article below illustrating the war against Falun Gong on Canadian soil.

Ottawa Citizen Special: Published: Monday, June 18, 2007

Any advanced nation will attract its share of spies, but allegations of China's attempts to harass immigrant dissidents in Canada are particularly troubling

A young Chinese diplomat -- ex-diplomat in fact -- has emerged as a significant thorn in the side for the People's Republic of China. Chen Yonglin defected from the Chinese consulate in Sydney, Australia, in May 2005. He professed to dislike his official duties, which included keeping tabs on and harassing the local Falun Gong movement.

Chen Yonglin not only called attention to China's disagreeable habit of targetting Chinese dissidents overseas, he also caused a sensation by revealing the scale of Chinese espionage operations in Australia. He stated that China had an army of 1,000 spies in Australia.

Former Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin has made credible, damaging charges about the extent of Chinese state espionage and harassment of dissidents in foreign countries, including Canada.

Former Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin has made credible, damaging charges about the extent of Chinese state espionage and harassment of dissidents in foreign countries, including Canada.

Torsten Blackwood, AFP/Getty Images
Email to a friendSince being granted asylum by Australia, Chen Yonglin has travelled to other Western countries, bearing the same warning message regarding Chinese state harassment of dissidents and Chinese espionage. He brought it to Canada recently, reigniting concern about China's overseas operations.

Chen Yonglin may sound like an alarmist, but his claims have plausibility. They have been corroborated by other defectors from China and match the reported experience of Falun Gong adherents in the West. Since declaring war on the Falun Gong as a dangerous "cult" in 1999, the Chinese regime has pursued its members with a vengeance and ferocity that is difficult to fathom. The Chinese regard Falun Gong as one of the five "poisonous" movements threatening Chinese state security -- the others are secessionist and ethnic movements such as those that champion Tibetan or Taiwanese independence.

Mr. Chen's own background is instructive. He was a university student during the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and apparently underwent a process of "political re-education" before being allowed to join the Chinese Foreign Ministry in 1991.

Since defecting he has become a crusader for the pro-democracy movement in China and a defender of the Falun Gong. There are others like Mr. Chen, and there will be more like him in the future as China struggles with its economic and political transformation away from communism. He and his ilk pose a challenge for the Chinese regime, which it has met badly to date. They also pose a challenge for Western democracies like Canada.

When allegations of espionage are mixed with stories of state repression, governments have a duty to respond. While some may regard the overt political messaging by the Harper government protesting Chinese intelligence operations in Canada as being ideologically driven and harmful to overriding economic interests, the truth is that speaking out about Chinese spying in Canada is a matter of old-fashioned realpolitik. What is at stake is a defence of Canadian sovereign interests. The only question is where and how to draw the line.

Any technologically advanced society must accept these days that it is likely to draw the attention of a variety of spy services -- and Canada is no exception. Making a huge public fuss about the activities of Chinese intelligence operations in Canada that target economic interests or national secrets would be tilting at windmills -- the activity cannot be stopped. It can and must be monitored effectively and every effort made to ensure that the drain of genuine secrets is not great. Providing occasional sharp reproofs and sending the occasional "diplomat" packing when the evidence warrants is all part of the game.

What is not tolerable, and what requires a different approach, is the use of Chinese espionage assets to target the immigrant Chinese community in Canada either for development as spies, or, more usually, for political harassment and intimidation. This is a form of political interference that cannot be condoned.

The Chinese government needs to be made to understand this clearly, and Canadians of Chinese descent who find themselves subject to such pressures must believe that they have the government on their side and can call on its protection.

There are a range of tools available: direct government protests to the Chinese; expulsion of unwanted "diplomatic" personnel; legal action against agents of the Chinese government not protected by the Geneva conventions.

But probably the most important tool is developing an understanding between Chinese-Canadians and the government that would help shield any vulnerable members of the community from intimidation and harassment, as well as provide an information resource to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, charged with keeping an eye on Chinese intelligence operations.

There may or may not be Chen Yonglin's army of 1,000 Chinese spies in Canada. But there should be no doubt that China has emerged as the number one counter-intelligence problem for CSIS.

In recent testimony to the Senate committee on national security and defence, CSIS director Jim Judd stated that keeping a watch on Chinese espionage operations alone takes up half of all the resources devoted to counter-intelligence. Goodbye Russia and the Cold War.

In an age when all eyes are fixed on terrorism as a threat to national security and when CSIS is about to morph into an overseas spy service, it would be a good idea to pay some sustained attention to the China problem as it manifests itself inside Canada.

Intelligence services are often viewed as inherently problematic for democratic norms. On the Chinese espionage file, CSIS could beat the rap and prove a beneficial guardian of Canadians' rights and liberties.

Wesley Wark is a professor at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto, specializing in security issues.

Canada called easy target for spies
Country likely houses hundreds of Chinese agents, former diplomat says
by COLIN FREEZE - June 6, 2007 at 5:08 AM EDT From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

TORONTO — 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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