Harassment of China Human Rights Defenders in Canada Ramping Up: Report

Chinese-Canadian democracy activist and author Sheng Xue receives messages about friends missing or arrested in China nearly every day.

Though she says she feels both “lucky and guilty” to live in a free country like Canada, having left China after the Tiananmen Square massacre, it has not sheltered her from the wrath of Beijing. And as the vice-president of the Federation for a Democratic China and an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), she is a natural target.

Over the past 30 years of her advocacy work, Sheng has been subjected to every type of harassment and intimidation the CCP has become known for, she says.

This includes being barred from visiting family in China, regular attacks in Beijing-controlled media, coordinated attacks and bullying online, insults and threats against her family and friends, a lawsuit, widespread defamation, her personal information released online, and more.

Sheng made the comments at an online press conference on May 12 to announce a new report showing that Beijing-sponsored harassment and intimidation of human rights activists in Canada is on the rise.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Sheng Xue in a file photo. (Helena Zhu/The Epoch Times)

Prepared by a coalition that includes Amnesty International Canada, the report covers how Chinese authorities have exerted influence in Canada—including in the Chinese community—on elected officials, in Chinese-Canadian media outlets, through social media, and in academic institutions.

The main targets for harassment are members of five groups or entities that the Chinese Communist Party targets the most for repression and persecution—Taiwan, Tibetans, Uighurs, Falun Gong adherents, and pro-democracy movements, says the report.

“Over the years, human rights defenders active with groups within the coalition as well as members of groups they represent have experienced a growing pattern of harassment, intimidation, and threats in Canada emanating from individuals almost certainly linked to the Chinese government,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.

“The unmistakable intent has been to disrupt and shut down activities in Canada that seek to draw attention to Chinas human rights record. The impact has ranged from inconvenience and frustration to intense levels of fear, anxiety, and distress.”

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, speaks at a really across from the Chinese embassy in Ottawa on July 19, 2017 to call for an end to the persecution campaign against Falun Gong in China. (The Epoch Times)

The report, titled “Harassment & Intimidation of Individuals in Canada Working on China-Related Human Rights Concerns,” notes that Beijing-backed Chinese actors appear to have become “emboldened” in their efforts to deter human rights activists in Canada by the inadequate response from Canadian officials.

The result is an “unacceptable chilling effect” on the exercise of free expression, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms in Canada, the authors warn.

“The Canadian government must treat this issue with increased urgency, as it has resulted in insecurity and fear for human rights defenders in Canada working on Chinese human rights issues,” the report says.

“This report demonstrates that the situation is worsening, as Chinese actors have arguably become emboldened by the inadequate response from Canadian officials (and other governments): incidents of interference have become increasingly pervasive across different spheres of society.”

Systemic Abuse

The Chinese Communist Party has a well-documented history of pursuing political and cultural influence abroad, in part by mobilizing overseas Chinese to act as agents of Chinas political interests, with the goal of suppressing dissidents and voices critical of Beijing.

In Canada, Tibetan-Canadians, Uighur-Canadians, Falun Gong practitioners, Hong Kong Canadians, pro democracy activists, and other individuals working on China-related human rights issues have long reported a campaign of harassment and intimidation against them at the hands of Chinese authorities.

SFU Lennon Wall
SFU Lennon Wall
The “Lennon Wall” in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong at the Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., on July 30, 2019. (Courtesy of SFU Hong Kong Society)

The Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China released a report in 2017 that detailed how groups were being subjected to a wide range of rights violations consistent with allegations of a systematic campaign.

The new report released this week expands on the coalitions earlier findings, saying the situation is worsening.

“There have been continued incidents of digital attacks, phone harassment, in-person monitoring of individuals in Canada, harassment and intimidation at dRead More – Source