Legal Threats Ramp Up Against Those Reporting on CCP Interference

Legal Threats Ramp Up Against Those Reporting on CCP Interference - Threats of legal action have recently been made targeting journalists who are focused on exposing foreign interference by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Canada. In June, Sen. Victor Oh proposed to create a national Chinese foundation to collect donations for launching lawsuits "against those unreasonable journalists, news outlets, and politicians who slander and defame Chinese people."

Legal Threats Ramp Up Against Those Reporting on CCP Interference

Legal Threats Ramp Up Against Those Reporting on CCP Interference

Threats of legal action have recently been made targeting journalists who are focused on exposing foreign interference by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Canada.

In June, Sen. Victor Oh proposed to create a national Chinese foundation to collect donations for launching lawsuits "against those unreasonable journalists, news outlets, and politicians who slander and defame Chinese people."

Joe Li, a regional councillor for Markham, Ont., has more recently echoed this threat against media outlets and reporters that he says are "smearing Chinese people." He made the remarks at an event celebrating the 156th Canada Day on July 1. He was one of the honorary guests who spoke at the event hosted by the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations (CTCCO).

"As Senator Victor Oh has said, we must set up a foundation. OK? Why? If we don’t donate this money, we Chinese, Chinese politicians will forever be smeared by those reporters. Today their target may be [Markham] deputy mayor Michael Chan. Tomorrow it will be me," Mr. Li said in Chinese in a video posted on YouTube by ccmedia.news.

"I hope us Chinese, regardless of your political affiliation, unite and donate money [so that] in the future, if they dare to smear us again, we should stand up and fight together against them.”

The audience was heard cheering "Yes!" in Chinese and applauding in response.

The Epoch Times reached out to Mr. Li for comment but didn't hear back. Mr. Oh has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Epoch Times.

Lawsuits

A number of other cases of lawsuits and threats of lawsuits have occurred in recent years over reports on politicians' alleged relationships with the CCP.

In August 2015, Michael Chan, then an Ontario MPP and cabinet minister and now Markham's deputy mayor, launched a defamation lawsuit against The Globe and Mail over articles that said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had expressed concerns about his "unusually close ties" to Chinese officials.

Mr. Chan named Globe publisher Phillip Crawley, editor-in-chief David Walmsley, and reporter Craig Offman, seeking $4.55 million in damages. He also sought damages of $50,000 from political commentator Charles Burton, who wrote a commentary in the Globe stating Mr. Chan was "under the undue influence of the government of China." In March 2016, Mr. Chan increased his $4.55 million demand to $4.85 million.

Recently, in May, Mr. Chan launched a $10 million lawsuit against CSIS and unidentified employees who he alleges leaked classified information aiming to harm his reputation, reported Global News. He is also reportedly suing the Crown, Canada's attorney general, and two journalists who have written about him based on the leaked information.

Mr. Chan has been a vocal defender of Beijing’s national security law, which was passed in June 2020 and used to suppress the massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. He also advocated for Toronto schools to install the contentious Confucius Institutes—a CCP international cultural program that's been criticized for undermining academic freedom, engaging in industrial and military espionage, and conducting surveillance of Chinese students abroad.

In April 2020, Global News published a report by investigative journalist Sam Cooper exposing how Beijing's United Front Work Department mobilized Chinese-Canadians to stockpile personal protective equipment (PPE) for China during the early stage of COVID-19 outbreak. In May 2020, a group of individuals in B.C. established the Maple Leafs Anti-Racism Actions Association (MLARA) to raise funds for legal action against Mr. Cooper and Global News, saying their report was racist against the Chinese community.

MLARA later abandoned its plan to sue after news broke that a WeChat account belonging to Liberal MP Joyce Murray, then minster of digital government, contained a post that promoted the group's fundraising campaign for the legal action. WeChat is a widely used Chinese social media platform.

Investigative journalist Sam Cooper arrives to appear before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 20, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Justin Tang)
Investigative journalist Sam Cooper arrives to appear before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 20, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Justin Tang)

In October 2020, the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations (CACA), an umbrella group of over 130 Chinese-Canadian organizations, held a press conference demanding that Mr. Cooper apologize for his "slanderous" reports about the Chinese community and threatened to sue if he refused. CACA has not carried out its threat to date.

CACA has a history of taking pro-Beijing stances, such as praising the CCP for fighting against Canada and its Western allies in the Korean War and backing Beijing's threat to use military force to gain control over Taiwan. Wang Dianqi, a CACA honorary chair, has also touted his consistent donations to the Chinese military.

In April this year, MP Han Dong launched a libel suit against Global News, seeking $15 million in damages after Global published a series of articles alleging his participation in a Beijing-backed foreign interference network.

Mr. Dong, now sitting as an Independent MP in his Toronto riding of Don Valley North, departed the Liberal caucus after Global News reported in March that he had been in contact with the Chinese consul general in Toronto and had suggested in February 2021 that Beijing postpone the release of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor. The two Canadians had been detained by the Chinese authorities for over two years at the time.

In an earlier report, published in February, Global News also cited unnamed national security officials who alleged Mr. Dong was one of 11 or more candidates who received support from Beijing in the 2019 federal election, saying he was a “witting affiliate” in China’s election interference networks in Canada.

Mr. Dong rejects the allegations.

Another politician, Ontario MPP Vincent Ke, also launched a defamation lawsuit against Global News and Mr. Cooper, in April, over a March 10 article that cited two Privy Council Office intelligence reports and several anonymous sources “with knowledge of the investigation into Beijing’s covert efforts during the 2019 federal election.” The article named Mr. Ke as a “financial intermediary” who helped the Chinese Consulate in Toronto channel funds to the candidates alleged to be under Beijing's influence. Mr. Ke denies the allegation.

Mr. Chan, Mr. Dong, and Mr. Ke have not returned requests for comment by The Epoch Times.

'Hidden Hand'

In June 2020, the book "Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party Is Reshaping the World" had to halt its publishing in Canada because a UK group filed a libel lawsuit against the authors and publisher. “Hidden Hand” was co-authored by Australian Clive Hamilton and German Mareike Ohlberg, and was first published in Australia before being targeted by the lawsuit during its plan to expand to international markets.

In 2020, Richard Yuan, a well-known figure in the Chinese-Australian community with strong links to Beijing, filed libel suits against several Australian English-language media claiming their reports about Chinese-Canadians' large-scale PPE shipment to China to be slanderous. Shortly afterwards, three media outlets7 News, Daily Mail Australia, and SBSissued apologies to Mr. Yuan and settled the case out of court.

Mr. Yuan’s success encouraged various pro-Beijing groups in other countries. He was invited to Canada to share with Chinese organizations his experience of striking back at Australian media, according to a Jan. 19, 2023, report by Huayi Media News.

"Mr. Yuan took up legal weapons and took legal action against these media respectively," the Chinese-language report said.

Mr. Yuan met with Mr. Oh and Mr. Ke in person during his visit in Toronto.