On November 14, China’s state broadcaster CGTN published a video clip of Iara Vidal, a Brazilian researcher and Communist Party member, speaking about news coverage of China in Latin America.
The CGTN interviewer, Li Jingjing, said Western media frame China’s business deals with Latin America as “colonization” and asked Vidal how Brazilians “see the role of China and the West.”
“When the West says China is a colonialist, I find it funny,” Vidal said. “China does not have the Monroe Doctrine.”
The 1823 Monroe Doctrine, named after U.S. President James Monroe, was a U.S. policy to oppose European colonialism in the Americas. The Doctrine has been controversial, as some view it as a U.S. declaration of dominance in the Americas.
“China does not meddle in anyone’s internal affairs,” Vidal stated.
That is false. In fact, despite regular declarations otherwise, China has a substantial record of trying to influence politics and elections in foreign countries. The latest example involves Canada.
On November 17, a video emerged of Chinese President Xi Jinping rebuking Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the G-20 summit over what Xi said were news media leaks from a prior meeting with Trudeau.
“Everything we discussed has been leaked to the paper. That’s not appropriate,” Xi scolded Trudeau through a translator. “That’s not the way the conversation was conducted.”
“If there is sincerity on your part, we can conduct good communications with an attitude of mutual respect,” Xi continued. “Otherwise, the results would be hard to tell.”
Trudeau responded: “In Canada, we believe in a free and open and frank dialogue, and that is what we will continue to have. We will continue to look to work constructively together, but there will be things that we will disagree on…”
“Let’s create the conditions first,” Xi replied, then walked away after a handshake.
What were the “leaks” Xi complained about? In fact, they were Trudeau’s “serious concerns” about alleged Chinese interference in Canada’s internal affairs.
According to The Wall Street Journal’s reporting, Trudeau raised the matter with Xi during an informal 10-minute discussion the pair had earlier at the summit in Bali, Indonesia. But those concerns had been highlighted by Trudeau and Canadian media long before then.
On November 7, Trudeau warned that China was “continuing to play aggressive games with our institutions, with our democracies.”
The remark followed an extensive expose by the Canadian network Global News saying China was suspected of “targeting Canada with a vast campaign of foreign interference, which includes funding a clandestine network of at least 11 federal candidates running in the 2019 election,” according to briefings by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
Two weeks earlier, Canadian police had announced investigations into a network of clandestine and illegal Chinese “police stations” in Toronto.
The “police stations” were allegedly used to facilitate coerced repatriations of Chinese citizens targeted by Beijing’s Operation Fox Hunt, an anti-corruption program to bring purported overseas fugitives to China.
(Polygraph.info has previously fact checked Operation Fox Hunt and the global network of Chinese overseas police stations.)
The CSIS had been briefing Trudeau and some of his cabinet members about the Chinese activities since January, with “detailed examples” of Beijing’s alleged efforts to “further its influence and, in turn, subvert Canada’s democratic process,” the Global News report said, reporting:
“[T]hose efforts allegedly involve payments through intermediaries to candidates affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), placing agents into the offices of MPs in order to influence policy, seeking to co-opt and corrupt former Canadian officials to gain leverage in Ottawa, and mounting aggressive campaigns to punish Canadian politicians whom the People’s Republic of China (PRC) views as threats to its interests.”
One of the most stunning allegations was that Chinese consulate officials in Toronto had directed a large clandestine transfer of cash to at least 11 federal election candidates, from both the Liberal and Conservative parties, and to a network of Beijing operatives who worked as their campaign staffers, said the Global News report, citing intelligence sources familiar with the briefings.
CSIS alleged that the funds were transferred through a Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) of Ontario and a federal election candidate's staffer, Global News said.
“Separate sources aware of the situation said a CCP (Chinese Communist Party) proxy group, acting as an intermediary, transferred around $250,000,” the news report wrote, adding that “some, but not all, members of the alleged network are witting affiliates” of the CCP.
“China conducts more foreign interference than any other nation, and interference threats to Canada increased in 2015 when Chinese President Xi Jinping elevated the CCP’s so-called United Front influence networks abroad,” Global News wrote, citing information from the 2022 intelligence briefings.
China’s United Front Work Department (UFWD), a CCP lobbying entity accused of illicit intelligence and propaganda operations around the globe, has been a common actor in political interference allegations from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and others.
(Polygraph.info has previously reported on China’s record of meddling in Australian politics and elections.)
The UFWD, which “operates through Chinese consulates in Canada,” is responsible for “orchestrat[ing]” political interference in Canada, the 2022 intelligence briefings claimed, according to Global News.
“United Front operations can include politicians, media, business, student and community groups, and are aimed at consolidating support for CCP policy as well as targeting critics and the causes of ethnic groups seen as ‘poisons’ by the CCP, such as Uyghurs and Tibetans,” Global News reported.
In April 2021, a Conservative MP from British Columbia, Kenny Chiu, proposed a Foreign Influence Registration Act to counter interference activities that the CSIS had been sounding the alarm about.
Chiu was subsequently attacked by a disinformation campaign allegedly orchestrated by China’s interference network in the 2021 federal election.
Chiu’s proposed law “was condemned on Chinese-language social media, alleging his plan would ‘suppress the Chinese community’ in Canada. The comments were disseminated on apps and websites widely used by some Canadians of Chinese origin, who make up approximately half of his riding’s or constituency’s population,” Canada’s The Globe and Mail reported in January.
The efforts targeting Chiu were documented and analyzed by the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council think tank in November 2021.
The CSIS also alleged that the Toronto Chinese Consulate transferred $1 million Canadian to “unidentified proxy groups” that organized protests to support Toronto District School Board’s partnership with China’s Confucius Institute in 2014. Many parents, teachers and students had reportedly opposed the integration, which eventually failed.
The UFWD in Canada also allegedly engaged in harassing critics of Beijing.
Citing the CSIS briefings, Global News reported that Chinese intelligence agents allegedly “conducted in-depth background research” into the House of Commons MPs who had voted for a February 2021 resolution that declared China’s mistreatment of Uyghur Muslims in its Xinjiang province a genocide.
The Global News also cited the CSIS briefings to report Chinese interference efforts to “infiltrate, surveil and ‘mess with’ Chinese diaspora communities.”
Here is one example that targeted the Uyghur community, as reported by the Global News:
"Turnisa Matsedik-Qira, a Uyghur-Canadian activist, said many in her community believe Chinese agents monitored and harassed them. She provided photos from her December 2021 Facebook posting that showed one alleged incident. In the post, Matsedik-Qira says she was protesting outside the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver when a van pulled up, and two men jumped out.
“ 'I'm scared and worried for my safety. I think he is connected to the Chinese Consulate, for sure. The Consulate has many people in Canada working for China.' ”
On November 15, the day Trudeau had the 10-minute discussion with Xi, Canadian authorities arrested Yuesheng Wang, a researcher at Canada’s largest electric utility, Hydro-Quebec, on espionage charges.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement that Wang allegedly "obtained trade secrets to benefit the People's Republic of China, to the detriment of Canada's economic interests."
China has also been accused of political interference in elections in democracies including the United States, the U.K. and New Zealand.
On July 4, 2017, Egypt authorities rounded up over 100 Uyghur Muslims from China, most of them university students who held valid residency permits, allegedly at Beijing’s request, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported in September 2017, citing sources including a Uyghur student who was later released.
“We were first interrogated by the Egyptian police, but not tortured or mistreated,” the student told RFA. “After the interrogations, they told us that they had detained us because of a Chinese government request [amid concerns] that we were ‘terrorists.’ ”
According to the student, the police told the detained students that “this is politics between two countries.” They told the students that no evidence of terrorism was found in the interrogations and that they would be released.
(RFA is a sister U.S.-funded news agency to Voice of America and Polygraph.info.)