Feds knew of Chinese meddling in WeChat but never acted

A June 12 federal memo contends that Chinese agents targeted diaspora populations in Canada through WeChat. It uncovered 'unusual account activity' to influence votes in ridings.

Feds knew of Chinese meddling in WeChat but never acted
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
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Global Affairs Canada refrained from taking action on foreign interference allegations against China after WeChat, a Chinese social media platform, did not respond to officials.

"China shows growing sophistication in carrying out online information campaigns to influence audiences in Canada," according to a June 12 department memo to a deputy minister. It contends that Chinese agents target diaspora populations through China-based platforms like WeChat.

"There are many people in Canada who are on an ongoing basis being targeted by foreign interference and it was not my job to inform them," testified Rob Stewart, the recipient of the memo and a former deputy minister of public safety.

He previously served as a federal monitor for alleged election interference in 2021. "There are processes and ways of doing so," said the deputy minister. "In this instance I was not tracking what other people were doing."

"We were informed of questionable activity in various ridings," clarified Stewart.

The memo uncovered "unusual account activity on WeChat that constitutes disinformation and attempts by various parties to influence votes in ridings." However, it took no action since WeChat is owned by Tencent Holdings Limited, a media corporation headquartered in Shenzhen.

Tencent does not publicly disclose suspected incidents of foreign interference, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

The deputy minister testified that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) twice informed him that Chinese agents used WeChat to target Conservative MP Michael Chong. Global People Magazine — a publication by China’s official news outlet, the People’s Daily Press — shared 'disinformation' against Chong, reported Rebel News

The campaign targeting the outspoken China critic originated from the outlet’s WeChat channels, but the federal government never informed Chong in advance.

While Global Affairs Canada said it is "highly probable" China orchestrated the operation, given the coordinated timing and content of the social media posts, CSIS memos obtained by The Bureau confirmed China "weaponized" the application during the 2021 election.

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, claiming to be a target of election interference himself. There is some weight to those claims, as first reported by Rebel.

WeChat posts 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.

Stewart testified that he received numerous security memos "bundled into a binder … every couple of days you get a binder." He said: "You flip through the binder, and you try to detect trends or issues of interest."

"How thick is that binder?" asked Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen. "A couple of inches," replied Stewart.

Disclosure of the WeChat memo coincides with the commencement of the public inquiry into foreign interference.

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