On October 30, the feds moved to ban WeChat from all government devices, citing national security concerns.
The social-networking platform, operated by the Chinese company Tencent, has been the epicentre of multiple foreign inference controversies in Canada. The risks associated with the platform have been noted for years.
According to a statement by the Chief Information Officer of Canada, the application posed "an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security."
"WeChat application’s data collection methods provide considerable access to the device’s contents," it outlined, adding that the decision "was made to ensure that Government of Canada networks and data remain secure and protected and are in line with the approach of our international partners."
The use of the application on personal devices remains a matter of "personal choice."
The ban comes after a similar imposition earlier this year by the Canadian government, who blocked the Chinese video application TikTok amid increased scrutiny into foreign interference.
The announcement on the WeChat blackout prompted swift and stern condemnation from the Chinese government.
"China strongly opposes Canada's latest ban on Chinese social media app WeChat on government-issued mobile devices, and urges the Canadian side to discard ideological prejudice, abide by economic principles and provide fair, just and non-discriminative business environment for Chinese companies," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters, according to Global Times.
Global Times operates under the broad umbrella of the People’s Daily Press, the official news outlet of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Global People Magazine – a publication put out by the People’s Daily Press - shared 'disinformation' against Chong, an outspoken China critic, earlier this year after Global Affairs Canada’s Rapid Response Mechanism detected unusual activity while monitoring elections.
Global Affairs Canada said it is "highly probable" China orchestrated the operation, given the coordinated timing and content of the social media posts. Approximately one third of the network included "known state media outlets" linked to the Chinese Communist Party, but details of the state entities were not disclosed.
Rebel News traced the campaign targeting the politician through WeChat channels back to the official account of the outlet.
"The ban was issued without hard evidence. It is a typical move of generalizing national security concept and abusing national power in the disguise of data security, to unreasonably crack down on companies in specific countries," said Wang.
There are indicators though that the opposite is true. Memos obtained by journalist Sam Cooper’s The Bureau from Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) confirmed fears that China had been able to "weaponize" the application during the 2021 election.
Despite the sweeping restrictions, the federal government said it has "no evidence that government information has been compromised."
A long-anticipated public inquiry into foreign interference commenced November 2, with the first installment of a thorough report expected in the new year.
Former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu, also a victim of a coordinated 'disinformation' campaign by Beijing, introduced Bill C-282 in 2021 to establish the Foreign Influence Registry. However, he lost his re-election that year, claimed to be a target of election interference himself. There is some weight to those claims, as first reported by Rebel News.
WeChat posts discovered by Rebel News show a coordinated campaign calling on all Chinese Canadians to oppose and vote against Conservative MP Kenny Chiu due to the introduction of Bill C-282 - claiming the bill will "catch all of our pro-China associations."
No such registration exists in Canada, permitting the outlets to operate freely without disclosing their activities.