Vancouver group runs newspaper ad praising controversial new security law in Hong Kong
18 July 2020
The national security law China recently imposed on Hong Kong has been widely condemned as an assault on the city’s freedoms.
But a major Vancouver group with ties to the Chinese government published an ad in a popular Chinese-Canadian newspaper Friday praising the controversial new legislation — and echoing Beijing’s official line.
The law will help combat “terrorist acts” and a small group of Hong Kong separatists, while ensuring the enclave’s long-term stability, declares the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver in the Ming Pao newspaper.
It follows a controversial advertisement it published with other groups last year condemning pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The association, which placed the ad jointly with a group called Hong Kong Canadians on Hong Kong Situation Association, could not be reached for comment.
But one critic says the spot looks “suspiciously” like it was meant to propagate China’s position at a time of international outcry over the law.
It certainly does not represent the views of the many people who immigrated to Canada to escape Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence, said Fenella Sung of the organization Canadian Friends of Hong Kong.
“Why is it that as a Canadian group, claiming to represent Canadians at large here, are they talking very much like the mouthpiece of the CCP?” she said.
“What is their relationship with the CCP, what is their relationship with this foreign state? Why are you speaking on their behalf, why are you representing their interests, rather than the Canadian interest?”
There’s no direct evidence that Chinese officials had anything to do with the ad. But China has generally stepped up its efforts in recent years to try to influence foreign countries like Canada and their Chinese diaspora.
Much of that effort is carried out by a Communist Party branch called the United Front Work Department, which often operates through sympathetic community groups in foreign nations.
The national security law introduced by China late last month criminalizes a wide range of activity, from promoting Hong Kong’s independence to subverting the authority of the state, “colluding” with foreign powers and using violent protest methods it deems “terrorism.”
Various human-rights organizations and Western governments have lambasted the law, saying it will crush the freedoms that set Hong Kong apart from mainland China. The United States has imposed strict sanctions in response.
The law came in the wake of months of mostly peaceful protests that brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of Hong Kong, and occasionally erupted into violence between demonstrators and police.
The Benevolent Association’s Chinese-language ad is similar to a statement posted on its website, which argues that Hong Kong’s affairs are the internal business of China.
It goes on to dismiss the protests in Hong Kong in much the same way Beijing has done — as violent and led by secessionists.
The demonstrations began as a response to a proposed bill allowing extraditions to China, and expanded to include calls for more democracy and to decry alleged police brutality.
“In the past year or so, a small number of radical terrorists and ‘Hong Kong independence’ lawbreakers have used violent acts to incite riots, obstruct traffic, occupy international airports, disrupt the Legislative Council, encircle the Hong Kong Police Department, and violently attack the police,” the association statement said.
It said it supported the new law as a way to promote the “stability and prosperity of Hong Kong,” equating the move with former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s controversial imposition of the War Measures Act in 1970s Quebec after FLQ terrorist acts.
An umbrella group for various other organizations, the Benevolent Association has a long history in Vancouver, but in recent years has appeared aligned with Chinese diplomats.
When the Vancouver consulate began a contentious program to recruit volunteer officials from the local community, two of the group’s executive members appeared in photographs on the consulate website promoting the initiative.
The association also hosted a gala night last year, featuring the consul general, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, months after the advertisement decrying the Hong Kong protests.