Canada and its allies like the United States must work together to fight foreign interference, Conservative MP Michael Chong says.
Chong made the comments to members of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, after he was invited down to speak on his personal experiences with the matter.
“Canada must work more closely with democratic allies like the United States in countering Beijing’s efforts to interfere in our democratic life,” he said.
“Foreign interference is a serious national security threat to Canada. It threatens our economy, our long-term prosperity, social cohesion, our Parliament and our elections. It requires a suite of measures to combat, including putting closer co-operation among allied democracies.”
Chong has been at the centre of foreign interference allegations in Canada and concerns about how Beijing is attempting to intimidate and influence policymakers around the world.
The issue has been a persistent one in Ottawa this year amid reporting on allegations of Chinese meddling in Canada from The Globe and Mail and Global News.
As stories broke, so did revelations that Beijing attempted to target sitting politicians, including Chong.
In May, the federal government confirmed a Globe and Mail report that CSIS had information in 2021 that Beijing was looking at ways to intimidate Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong.
China has denied the allegations that it targeted Chong after the MP voted in February 2021 in favour of a motion in the House of Commons condemning China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority as a genocide.
The spat led to both nations expelling diplomats in a tit-for-tat move and prompted a policy change for CSIS to inform MPs of threats, no matter how serious.
“Canada must work toward a stronger defence and security partnership with the United States and allies,” Chong said.
“We must look for every opportunity to strengthen this partnership, to meet the challenge of rising authoritarianism and to preserve our fundamental freedoms, our democracy and the rule of law.”
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China, established in 2000 to keep tabs on Beijing’s human rights record, is a bipartisan committee of U.S. senators, House members and administration officials.
It has accused China of a “systemic attempt to rewrite global norms” and of resorting to everything from forced rendition and surveillance to online harassment and street assaults to intimidate dissidents and political prisoners.
Other scheduled witnesses Tuesday included Yana Gorokhovskaia of the pro-democracy D.C. think tank Freedom House; Laura Harth, the campaign director for the human rights group Safeguard Defenders; and Uyghur activist Rushan Abbas.
They were scheduled to discuss China’s tactics, specific cases and targets “in the United States, Canada and worldwide,” and explore ideas “for further congressional and administrative action and transatlantic co-operation.”
During Chong’s hour-long testimony, U.S. lawmakers asked about the extent of Beijing’s attempted influence in Canada, and methods to collaborate to better fight foreign interference.
Chong not only detailed his personal story, but also suggested ways to improve relations. One of the methods he suggested was better co-operation on “legislative best models,” in particular around a foreign agents’ registry. Canada is currently studying the model, while the U.S. has had one in place for years.
Chong also suggested allies “go public” with the intelligence about foreign interference during critical times such as elections, so that members of the public and elected officials have what they need to protect themselves.
Furthermore, Chong suggested allies crack down on financial crimes and repression within countries and invest in technologies like virtual private networks so that citizens can access news and information from the outside world.
Finally, Chong said Canadian security services have said the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is not only a threat to national security, but also a threat in the form of theft of intellectual property in five key areas.
“Those five areas are 5G telecommunications, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, biopharma and clean technologies, and so I think what we should be doing is banning any government funding of research in partnership with PRC entities in those five sensitive areas of research,” he said.
“We need to make it clear that we won’t fund research in those five areas that’s in partnership with PRC entities. I think we also need to ban research in partnership with any entity affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army.”
A public inquiry has been set up to probe allegations of foreign interference in Canada.
Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Marie-Josee Hogue will lead the 16-month inquiry, which is expected to delve into alleged meddling in Canadian affairs by China, Russia and other foreign states and non-state actors.
An interim report is due by the end of February and a final report by the end of December 2024.
Former governor general David Johnston was named as a special rapporteur to examine the issue, but he stopped short of recommending a public inquiry earlier this year.
Johnston’s report concluded that the government had not knowingly or negligently failed to act and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself had not been briefed about specific allegations.
Johnston resigned from the role in June amid accusations of bias.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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