Pro-China counter-protesters cast shadows on a Chinese flag as they shout against Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protesters staging a rally, in Vancouver, August 2019.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Beijing supporters have lobbied politically and socially in Canada to highlight the China-Taiwan Policy, a public relations effort aimed at countering plans by U.S. and Canadian lawmakers to visit the island.

Just over a week after Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi had a high-profile meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the acting consul general of China in Vancouver met with Chinese international students at two universities in British Columbia. Wang Chengjun spoke to students about his support for the Chinese government’s position that Taiwan is a breakaway province, according to a press release from the consulate.

The meetings were held with students from the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna, British Columbia, and the Thompson Rivers University campus in Kamloops, according to the news release. Administrators at both universities were unaware of the meetings and were unable to confirm where they took place.

A few days later, a letter amplifying China’s reunification policy with Taiwan, signed by at least 80 Chinese organizations across Canada, appeared in Ming Pao, one of Canada’s largest Chinese-language newspapers.

The letter says Chinese citizens living in Canada have a “firm opposition” to Pelosi’s visit and “will not hesitate to stand up to safeguard China’s national interests and national sovereignty” – language almost identical to news from the Consul General of Vancouver Liberation.

China approved a series of military exercises earlier this month after Ms Pelosi’s visit.

A separate government was formed in Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War in 1949, but the island is considered a breakaway province by Beijing. Canada’s official diplomatic stance is a “one China policy” that stops short of endorsing Beijing’s claim to Taiwan.

Beijing last week warned Ottawa against allowing a delegation of Canadian lawmakers to continue with a planned visit to Taiwan later this year.

“We urge the Canadian side to uphold the one-China principle and respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Chinese government said in a statement.

“China will take resolute and vigorous action against any country that tries to interfere with or infringe on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The Chinese consulate did not respond to requests for comment from The Globe and Mail, and none of the groups The Globe contacted signed the letter. Among the signatories is the Chinese Benevolent Association, which has previously supported Beijing’s position on the 2019 protests in Hong Kong.

When asked last week if his government supported the planned visit of MPs and senators, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there were “significant thoughts underway at this time” about the potential diplomatic impact. travel.

“Canada has a long-standing position vis-à-vis China and Taiwan that we will make sure to respect. China’s belligerence over this and its stance is, of course, as it has been for some time, troubling,” Trudeau said, adding that his government would “ensure that parliamentarians taking the decision to travel or not are done with all the reflections on the consequences and impacts of it.

Global Affairs Canada declined to answer questions from The Globe about whether Ottawa was aware of a strategy to influence Chinese nationals and international students living in Canada. Instead, the department provided a statement that affirmed the federal government’s commitment to “peace in the Taiwan Strait.”

Angel Liu, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver, said the pro-Beijing message is indicative of the Chinese government’s “united front” strategy, which, according to the Security and US-China economy, “serves to promote Beijing’s position.” favorite global narrative, pressuring individuals living in free and open societies to censor themselves and avoid discussing issues unfavorable to the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]and harass or undermine groups that criticize Beijing’s policies. »

Ms. Liu added that the Taiwanese community “will never be coerced by Chinese intimidation, including military, economic and cognitive warfare.”

Gordon Houlden, director emeritus of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, said the idea of ​​Chinese nationals siding with the Chinese government is “not unusual.”

“There’s a pretty strong nationalism among a lot of young Chinese people,” Prof Houlden said, referring to the Vancouver consul’s meeting with international students. But he noted that many Chinese Canadians did not share the views of the Chinese government.

“There are people who are very Chinese in their culture, language and interests, but who focus on human rights and western democratic values.”

Professor Houlden said it is not illegal for representatives of foreign governments to meet their nationals living abroad, but said: “It’s not inherently bad, but it could turn into something more complicated.”

Victor Ho, former editor of Canadian Chinese-language newspaper Sing Tao Daily, said he was not surprised to see the advertisements in Chinese-language media, noting that this is not the first time some Chinese-Canadian groups have expressed support for the Chinese government.

Mr Ho pointed out that when the Hong Kong protests erupted in 2019, some groups sided with Beijing and placed advertisements in Sing Tao Daily and Ming Pao Canada to criticize protesters in the former British colony. .

“It’s foreign government propaganda on behalf of local companies,” he said.

Mr. Ho fears that such excessive pro-Beijing propaganda in the Chinese-Canadian media could lead to a “later crisis for our Chinese community” because it could cause other Canadians to view the Chinese community with suspicion. .

“This is pure political propaganda. We should stop it as soon as possible. Otherwise, Chinese Canadians will suffer a lot.

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