CPC MP Michael Chong delivers testimony before Congressional-Executive Commission on China: 'My experience was but one case'

Canadian politician and Conservative MP Michael Chong, twice now the target of a suspected Chinese state smear campaign, made his case before American legislators for stronger cooperation to stifle Chinese interference.

CPC MP Michael Chong delivers testimony before Congressional-Executive Commission on China: 'My experience was but one case'
Facebook/ Michael Chong
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The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), a committee formed in 2000 with a mandate to monitor human rights and rule of law developments in China, held the hearing on “Countering China’s Global Transnational Repression Campaign” on Tuesday.

The commission took the unusual step of requesting a Canadian politician to testify at the hearing, indicating that the foreign interference scandal in Canada has piqued the interest of the United States’ top lawmakers. He would be the first sitting politician called to testify before U.S. Congress.

Chong told a press conference held during the Conservative Party of Canada convention in Quebec that [foreign interference is] “deeply corrosive to our democracy.”

The invitation to testify was extended to Chong following a series of reports that he had been the target of a Beijing-backed attack on two separate occasions.

The first was exposed by a series of anonymous intelligence leaks from CSIS published in the Globe and Mail, claiming that his [Chong’s] family in Hong Kong had been targeted with the assistance of a Chinese diplomat in Canada. However, the confidential memos never reached Chong, triggering a House of Commons hearing into the Liberal Party overlooking the information.

Justin Trudeau has maintained that CSIS was to blame for the oversight even though the briefings were received by several different departments within his administration. The result was the Chinese official Zhao Wei's expulsion after significant public outcry and pressure mounted with calls for action.

The second attack was detected shortly after Zhao Wei’s expulsion. It was identified by Global Affairs Canada’s Rapid Response Mechanism – an election monitoring mechanism created to detect foreign election interference. The campaign against Chong was seemingly detected by accident during by-election monitoring.

During his testimony, Chong highlighted the need to work together on “better legislative models,” such as introducing a Foreign Agent Registry Act (FARA). The United States has had a FARA since 1938. Kenny Chiu, another Conservative MP, attempted to introduce similar legislation. He ultimately became the victim of an online disinformation campaign and lost his seat, effectively killing his private member’s bill.

Chong also discussed the online WeChat campaign against him, stating that it was “corrosive,” and touched on how Chinese-language social media has been “weaponized” by the Chinese Communist Party.

The issues with foreign-language media arose, leading to talks on why state-owned or operated propaganda outlets were permitted to run in our democracies. Rebel News traced the second disinformation campaign against Michael Chong on WeChat back to the People’s Daily – the official press of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. People’s Daily still maintains an overseas bureau in Canada.

The need to collaborate to counter money laundering and the proceeds of “illicit gain” was stressed, as money and transnational repression “comes alongside corruption.”

Another topic was using international students linked to CCP-backed groups to harass and intimidate pro-democracy students and carry out influence operations.

A straightforward method to counter Beijing’s influence discussed was to use “sunlight” – that is, to expose actors who may have dual or competing loyalties publicly to stifle their activities. “Name and shame” them, said Chong.

There was an awkward moment when Chong was asked if the Canadian government was “standing in solidarity” with him in countering the threats that foreign interference posed. He responded that they have been supportive since the spring (after the CSIS leaks), but there “were issues before that.”

His testimony follows a recent announcement that Canada will conduct its public inquiry into foreign interference. An interim report is required by February of 2024 while the final report is required by the end of 2024.

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