Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Process and Democratic Institutions Submission by Dr. Li (Ally) Wang

July 1, 2024

I appreciate the PIFI Committee for providing the opportunity to submit this statement to the members of Canadian society. I am also grateful that the Committee accepts my statement in Chinese, as discussing such important and complex issues as foreign interference in federal elections and democratic systems allows me to express my true opinions more accurately in my native language.

A. Self-Introduction
My name is Li Wang (Ally Wang in English). I hold a Ph.D. in Ancient Chinese Literature and am 51 years old. As an independent scholar, freelance writer and translator, and poet, I have published over a thousand works in countries such as China, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Mongolia. I have authored and translated more than ten books.

Since 2019, I have primarily engaged in community volunteer work to enhance civic engagement among the Chinese Canadian community. This includes encouraging Chinese Canadians to participate in elections and vote, helping victims of racial attacks seek justice, promoting civic education within the community, especially among the youth, and combating disinformation and misinformation about the Chinese community.

B. Overview
Due to my community volunteer work promoting voting awareness among Chinese Canadians, some English media outlets, groups, and individuals have accused me of being controlled by the Chinese government (PRC). These accusations are entirely false, amounting to outright defamation and representing false and misleading information mixed into the investigation of foreign interference.

I fully support the Canadian government’s efforts to investigate foreign interference in Canadian elections and take effective countermeasures. However, I have also observed that broad suspicion has led to a crisis of trust within the Chinese community. Therefore, I suggest that the government, media, and related institutions should carefully discern the truthfulness of information during their investigations to avoid excessive suspicion that may stigmatize the Chinese community and cause unnecessary harm to innocent individuals.

In my community volunteer work, I have clearly felt the negative impact of disinformation and misinformation on both the Chinese Canadian community and me:

1. Malicious attacks on the Chinese community have led some non-Chinese Canadians to mistakenly believe that all Chinese Canadians are spies, exacerbating anti-Asian discrimination. Within the Chinese community, mutual distrust has arisen, with individuals suspecting others of being spies or controlled by the PRC government. Due to the fear of being suspected, some Chinese Canadians have become less enthusiastic about voting and seeking justice, undermining their civic engagement and advocacy efforts.

2. Disinformation and misinformation attacking me personally have smeared my motivations for volunteer work, the work I have done, and the social activities I have participated in. These attacks have severely damaged my reputation, mental and physical well-bing .

C. Specific Explanation
1. In 2020, English media disinformation and misinformation exacerbated anti-Asian discrimination.
On April 30, 2020, Mr. Sam Cooper published a news report on Global News, in both article and video formats, accusing overseas Chinese, including Chinese Canadians, of donating PPE to mainland China before the global pandemic outbreak under the PRC government’s orders.

From my observations and those of other Chinese community members, many of the materials cited in this article are unverified, and some were incorrectly translated from Chinese to English. From May to July of that year, I and other readers who also disagreed with the article contacted Mr. Cooper and Global News, hoping they would correct the errors to avoid misleading readers and harming the Chinese community. After our efforts were unsuccessful, I submitted a complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC). Unfortunately, our request was not satisfied, and the article continued to be publicly disseminated.

The viewpoints spread by this article significantly stigmatized Chinese Canadians, leading to widespread accusations and hatred against the community. Many readers mistakenly believed that Chinese Canadians were PRC government spies. Mr. Cooper’s related social media posts received numerous anti-Chinese comments. For example, comments such as “This is why we should send them all back. Canada doesn’t need any immigrants from China,” and “They’ve shown their desire to use their Huawei phones for spying, yet we still allow it. What’s wrong with our government?” appeared. Some individuals tagged Trudeau, the Deputy Prime Minister, Parliament, and the then-Premier of BC, demanding, “Get these people out of our country now. Canadians are at risk.” More hateful, discriminatory, defamatory, and disturbing comments can be found in the attachments.

It is evident that such collective accusations and defamation of the Chinese Canadian community through disinformation and misinformation exacerbated the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic. (Concerns from some readers about this are also visible in Mr. Cooper’s social media comments.)

At the time, especially in BC, Asians were frequently subjected to verbal and violent attacks by strangers in public places. Vancouver was even labeled the “North American capital of anti-Asian hate” by Bloomberg. Due to the fear of increasing anti-Asian hate crimes, I avoided wearing Chinese-style clothing in public during the summer to prevent being targeted by racists. Mr. Sam Cooper’s stigmatizing news further intensified my fear.

2. After the 2021 election, my volunteer work promoting voting awareness among the Chinese community was questioned and criticized.

2.1 An overview of my volunteer work promoting voting awareness among the Chinese community from 2019 to 2021:
In 2018, I shifted my writing focus from comparing Chinese and Canadian education systems and biographies of Tang Dynasty poets to Canadian social affairs. In this process, I gradually discovered that the voting rate of Chinese Canadians had been consistently low since the restoration of their voting rights in 1947, often below average. I believe that in a democratic society like Canada, elections and voting are foundational, driving the functioning of society. If the Chinese community remains inactive in elections and voting, it reflects a lack of participation and contribution to Canada’s democratic system. Therefore, raising political and voting awareness within the Chinese community became one of my writing and volunteer goals.

2019 was a federal election year. With the help and support of like-minded community members, I held 19 public lectures in several cities across the Greater Vancouver area to promote civic and voting awareness within the Chinese community.

2021 was another federal election year. In August, the non-partisan, non-candidate, non-profit organization Chinese Canadian Voting Promotion Association (CCGTV) was officially registered in BC, aiming to raise voting awareness among Chinese Canadians, increase their engagement with social affairs, and help politicians understand the community’s needs. I was one of the co-founders. CCGTV built a website to display party platforms and disseminate related information. Our slogan was “Your vote matters,” and we organized community gatherings in 2021 with this slogan, recruiting volunteers.

When this news was shared in WeChat groups, Chinese Canadians from Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto contacted us, hoping to organize similar community activities. Consequently, in these regions, volunteers organized street activities holding “Your vote matters” signs.
The purpose of this activity was to mobilize community members to promote the importance of voting. We knew that the efforts of a few individuals would not suffice, so we welcomed anyone willing to organize. On the day and in subsequent days, especially on weekends, various community organizations in Vancouver borrowed our slogan signs to hold their “Your vote matters” street or group activities. For such public and open social activities, CCGTV did not intend to control who could participate; we believed in the collective effort of the community.

In 2021, CCGTV, in collaboration with local Chinese media “Rise Weekly,” planned interviews with candidates from major parties. Since the Conservative Party did not respond to our interview invitation, we ended up interviewing candidates from the People’s Party, NDP, Liberal Party, Green Party, and independents, with hosts from both “Rise Weekly” and CCGTV.

2.2 After the 2021 federal election, the Chinese community’s voting promotion activities began to face misinformation in some English media.
After the 2021 election, with increasing claims of PRC interference in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian elections, CCGTV and my efforts to promote voting awareness were questioned and defamed, such as being accused of aiding the Liberal Party (specifically helping a candidate in Richmond-Steveston) and being PRC collaborators. As stated, all CCGTV activities were non-partisan and not-for-candidate, focusing solely on promoting voting awareness without supporting any specific candidate or party.

Some journalists irresponsibly drew conclusions from public event photos without verifying the facts with us. As mentioned, the “Your vote matters” campaign in 2021 was entirely open, and we welcomed organizations and teams supporting our cause to participate. For instance, some planned to hold a community walk in Richmond’s Fisherman’s Wharf and offered to carry our slogan signs to amplify the message. We provided “Your vote matters” signs, and later received photos and messages showing they met a candidate named Parm Bains during the event, who praised the activity and took photos with participants. Unfortunately, these photos were misconstrued as evidence that CCGTV supported the Liberal Party and Bains, which was not true.

The joint interviews with “Rise Weekly” were also misrepresented. Initially, we invited Liberal candidate Mr.  Josh Vander Vies from Vancouver. As a severely disabled person, his candidacy was admirable and represented the Canadian spirit of endless possibilities in a free country. Global News reported on his candidacy. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, Mr. Vies could not attend the interview, so we invited Burnaby candidate Ms. Brea Huang Sami instead. Ms. Sami recommended Mr. Parm Bains to join the interview. Unfortunately, this interview was misinterpreted as evidence of CCGTV’s support for the Liberal Party and Bains in some reports.

Additionally, CCGTV and “Rise Weekly” did not receive a response from the Conservative Party candidates. Incredibly, this was also twisted by some media as evidence of CCGTV’s support for the Liberal Party.

    2.3 Some English media accused me of being controlled by the PRC government and spread misinformation about me.
Besides attacking CCGTV, I personally faced false accusations and misinformation, alleging that I am controlled by the PRC government.
These articles cited unclear and vague “evidence,” primarily relying on subjective speculation and conjecture by the authors or outright fabrications.

    2.3.1. On June 24, 2023, Mr. Bob Mackin published a report claiming that “Pro-Beijing Phoenix Television reported on March 21 about the CSIS leak, accusing former Chinese diplomat Tong Xiaoling of interfering in Canadian elections to help pro-China candidates, and Wang was mentioned.”

However, the truth is that the Phoenix TV report on March 21 was about Canadian senators Yuen Pau Woo and Victor Oh proposing a commemorative event in June to mark 100 years since the Chinese Exclusion Act, where I was invited as a current affairs commentator to discuss the event. The entire news piece did not mention Tong Xiaoling. Such misleading “montage associations” and “expanded content” severely misled readers.

    2.3.2. After I submitted federal petition e-4395 in 2023, the attacks extended to our anti-discrimination and equality advocacy activities. For instance, an anonymous website accused me of opposing vulnerable groups, falsely claiming that I “pretend” to be anti-discrimination and am a long-time supporter of the PRC government.

I joined anti-discrimination movement from April 2021. In late March 2021, a video showing a white couple attacking and verbally abusing a Chinese waitress with hate speech was shared by the victim. The same couple had also been involved in a 2019 incident of racial abuse and assault against Chinese people but had not faced any consequences. To ensure that the perpetrators faced legal repercussions, we established the Stop Anti-Asian Hate Crime Advocacy Group (123.site) to monitor the case’s progress. Details of the case and a summary report on the discrimination hotline are available on our website. In December of the same year, we launched a discrimination hotline (1-877-912-3123) to help victims of hate crimes seek justice. The hotline’s work report is also available on our website.

I have never opposed vulnerable groups. In 2018-19, I was accused by an English reporter of “opposing refugees” because of my concern in a 2017 Burnaby case where a 13-year-old girl was murdered near her home. This accusation was entirely the reporter’s fabrication. Recently, after six years of trial, the case (File no. 29405-1) concluded with the criminal receiving legal punishment.

    2.3.3. In April 2023, Ms. Karen Wen Lin Wood (known as “Lin Ye” in Chinese) defamed me on Twitter and WeChat, spreading falsehoods in both English and Chinese and instilling fear within the Chinese community.

On Twitter, Ms. Wood accused me of being part of a “disinformation camp” directly attacking Kenny Chiu and claimed that my initiation of petition e-4395 was driven by foreign interference.

Ms. Wood’s accusations were baseless, and she even got my identity wrong, labeling me as the editor and publisher of “Rise Weekly,” while I am merely a columnist for the publication. My author bio is included at the end of each article I publish in “Rise Weekly,” yet Ms. Wood either overlooked or ignored this fact.

Astonishingly, Mr. Kenny Chiu retweeted Wood’s unfounded tweet, which garnered significant attention. I do not understand Wood’s motive for spreading lies, nor do I understand why former MP Kenny Chiu would so readily propagate these falsehoods.

Ironically, Ms. Wood’s Twitter bio claims she is a prominent commentator for CGTN America, which is part of China Global Television Network under the State Council of China. According to an article in the “Epoch Times,” which quoted the “South China Morning Post,” Wood founded the Canadian Chinese Political Affairs Committee (CCPAC) and had worked for a lobbying firm employed by the Chinese Consulate in Toronto. She also attended consulate events without informing her employer.

If these media reports are accurate, it is astonishing that someone with multiple connections to the PRC government would accuse me—who has never participated in any PRC government or consulate activities—of being controlled by the PRC government. This absurd lie, which Mr. Kenny Chiu amplified, highlights the importance of discerning information during foreign interference investigations.

Ms. Wood also claimed that “Rise Weekly” was part of the “disinformation camp” attacking Mr. Kenny Chiu. Mr. Chiu, who should have been able to recognize the inaccuracy of Wood’s accusations against “Rise Weekly,” failed to do so. In fact, “Rise Weekly” did not publish any negative information about Mr. Kenny Chiu before or during the 2021 election. Since Mr. Chiu never proactively engaged with “Rise Weekly,” and the Conservative Party did not respond to interview invitations during the election, the publication could not feature any promotional content about Mr. Kenny Chiu or the Conservative Party. Moreover, after Mr. Chiu lost the election in 2022 and blamed voter manipulation, “Rise Weekly” published his article titled “Kenny Chiu Responds to Transparency Act on Foreign Influence in Canada” at his request.

Mr. Chiu’s article began directly: “After reading Senator Yuen Pau Woo’s opinion article in last week’s ‘Rise Weekly,’ I found many inaccuracies, misinterpretations, and errors. Because this is not merely a matter of differing opinions, I want to correct and clarify to prevent the community from being misled by false information.” The article re-explained Bill C-282, criticized Senator Yuen Pau Woo, and cited the “Globe and Mail” to emphasize that his election loss was due to Chinese voters being manipulated by the PRC government.

If “Rise Weekly” intended to attack Mr. Kenny Chiu, why would they publish his article? Why does Mr. Chiu view a media outlet that provided him a platform to voice his opinions as an adversary? What standards does Mr. Chiu use to define attacks against him? Or, did he carelessly or deliberately spread Ms. Wood’s lies? This raises questions about the authenticity of Mr. Kenny Chiu’s claims of foreign interference against him. How much of it is genuine, and how much is fabricated, like Ms. Wood’s lies?

Worse, after I submitted petition e-4395, Ms. Wood used Chinese on WeChat to defame me as PRC-controlled and to intimidate community members with misinformation. She claimed that signing petition e-4395 would result in personal information being logged by CSIS and seen by English media reporters, leading to potential midnight visits and impacting future employment opportunities for their children.

Ms. Wood’s lies instilled fear in people about participating in normal parliamentary petition activities, deterring them from engaging in these lawful democratic activities, thereby undermining Canada’s democratic system.

Although I responded to her tweets and WeChat messages on my Twitter account, my influence is significantly less than that of Mr. Kenny Chiu and Ms. Wood, making it difficult to counteract the negative impact of her lies.

  

3. My Declarations
• My motivation for promoting voting awareness and equality in the Chinese community, as stated above, is out of concern for the public interest of the Chinese Canadian community and my personal interest as a community member.
• After becoming a Canadian citizen, the only passport I hold is a Canadian passport.
• My focus on news and social affairs is primarily on Canada and the United States, with little attention to the news or policies of other countries.
• In my community volunteer work, I have only engaged with Canadian government officials and staff, never with officials or staff from non-Canadian governments.
• These declarations should not have been necessary, but I include them in this submission due to the baseless defamation and slander against me.
Conclusion: The negative claims linking me and my community volunteer work to “foreign interference” by the PRC government are entirely unfounded, consisting of disinformation and slander.

D. Reflections and Recommendations
In conclusion, I would like to offer some thoughts: The Chinese Canadian community is diverse, with differences in language, writing, religion, and ideology. In English, the term should accurately be “Chinese Communities.” There is no single “Chinese community” in Canada that can be directed by a foreign government to act uniformly.

I believe that addressing illegal activities based on factual evidence is essential. However, in the absence of concrete facts, it is irresponsible and dangerous for some media and political figures to broadly claim that the Chinese Canadian community is influenced by a foreign government, as this casts doubt on the loyalty of an entire ethnic group or community.

Historical suspicions about the loyalty of ethnic groups have led the Canadian government to mistreat German, Italian, Ukrainian, and Japanese Canadian communities during World War I and World War II. To prevent the recurrence of such historical tragedies and to avoid misleading the public with disinformation and misinformation, accusations against the Chinese community should be carefully examined to distinguish facts from subjective assumptions, personal speculations, attribution errors, jealousy over support for electoral opponents, and dissatisfaction with international relations misdirected towards the Chinese community.

Public figures and politicians have the privilege of their statements being taken seriously by the media and the government, so they must exercise this privilege responsibly and avoid using it for personal vendettas.

Maintaining the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and implementing multicultural policies require tangible actions. When suspicions about the loyalty of a minority ethnic group arise and gain traction with some media and political figures, every Canadian should be vigilant.

Thank you again to the Committee for providing the opportunity to submit this statement.