As Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) passed through the Canadian capital late last month ahead of the G20 meeting, there was yet another example of the nefarious influence the Chinese government is having on freedom of expression worldwide. Given Taiwan’s proximity to — and increasingly close ties with — the Asian giant, this latest development should serve as a warning. \nWhile the great majority of state visits with world leaders in Ottawa conclude with a press conference, Hu’s didn’t. In fact, it has since been revealed that the office of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to cancel the joint press conference to prevent critical Chinese journalists from participating. The Chinese embassy in Ottawa was reportedly concerned that the press conference would include reporters from two media organizations reviled by Beijing — the Epoch Times and New Tang Dynasty TV. \nA few weeks prior to Hu’s visit, the Chinese embassy had reporters from those two organizations barred from attending the press conference. The request was first turned down by the parliamentary press gallery, on the grounds that the media organizations were full members of the gallery. \nNot to be dissuaded, the embassy then went straight to the prime minister’s office. Initially, as the Globe and Mail reported, Harper’s office attempted to strike a compromise with the gallery. Facing principled opposition, Harper’s office decided to cancel the press conference altogether, sparking accusations from Helene Buzzetti, president of the parliamentary press gallery in Ottawa, that Harper had agreed to Chinese censorship. \nTo add irritant to the Hu-Harper lovefest, many Canadian entrepreneurs who straddle the fine line between business and policy-making, including Power Corp chief executive (and son-in-law of former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien) Andre Demarais, gravitated to Hu like moons round a planet. \nThe Desmarais family, who for many years has been the “architects” of Canada’s China policy, developed strong ties with some leading Chinese families, notably those of former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), former deputy premier Bo Yibo (薄一波) and former premier Li Peng (李鵬). \nOne photo of a dinner held in Hu’s honor and released by the prime minister’s office had Demarais, who was seated to Hu’s right, conveniently blocked by what else — the perfect metaphor: a small Chinese flag. \nAround the time Hu was in Ottawa, Canada’s civilian spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), released an unclassified version of a report that pointed to strong evidence of China acting as an “agent of influence” on federal and provincial officials. \n“In Canada,” David Harris, a former CSIS official, wrote in a July 1 opinion piece, “Beijing spies, bullies recalcitrant Canadian Chinese, funds ‘spontaneous’ pro-Chinese demonstrations, and otherwise interferes in our democracy.” \nThis interference includes seducing politicians, public servants, academics, lawyers and other professionals. It also comes in the form of current and former Department of Foreign Affairs officials sitting on the board of a major China-connected trade organization. \nThe consequences of this influence by the Chinese government on Canadian liberties are encapsulated in the story of a former member of parliament — an earnest defender of Taiwan — suddenly embracing Beijing’s “one China” policy and forcing that view on other ministers and officials. \n“Too many Mainland boondoggles and hostesses,” Harris wrote of that particular case. \nEqually worrying is the effectiveness of Beijing’s carrot-and-stick treatment of foes and allies alike. While the carrots are self-evident (just ask the Demarais), the sticks usually come in the form of denials and threats by Chinese officials or lawsuits by Chinese pressure groups against whoever publishes material that criticized the actions of the Chinese government. \nNot only did Beijing deny it engaged in espionage in Canada, but a campaign against the head of the Canadian spy agency was launched by no other than Hong Kong-born member of parliament Olivia Chow. While one’s ethnicity or place of birth should not be grounds for suspicion (in other words, that Chow is acting on behalf of China), associations with certain groups or individuals are a different thing altogether. In Chow’s case, it is the Canada Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (ALPHA), whose founder, Joseph Wong, flanked Chow at her press conference targeting the CSIS report. \nALPHA, which denies any contact with Chinese embassy officials, has a long history of using lawsuits to silence Beijing’s detractors. In one recent case, it even managed to have a book recalled — and reprinted, minus a few lines — because the authors (one of whom was a former CSIS employee) made allegations of Chinese espionage in Canada. \nFor its part, CSIS has a long history of ineffective media relations, mostly the result of a policy of not discussing intelligence matters in public, which makes it easy for people like Chow to claim that its accusations are “baseless.” \nIf a “mature” democracy like Canada can allow its values to be thus warped by Chinese officials and lobby organizations, we can only fear what will happen in Taiwan — a young democracy that is still not entirely sure-footed — as contact between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait increases. \nCould we, for example, expect the Government Information Office under President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to protect reporters’ interests (and in so doing, freedom of expression) with the same verve as the Canadian parliament’s press gallery, which still succumbed to Beijing’s shadow of censorship? Would our intelligence agencies even dare release a report that accuses China of corrupting our system and its officials, knowing that doing so could cost business opportunities or, in the brave new world of the ECFA, invite a salvo of blackmail? \nJ. Michael Cole is deputy news editor at the Taipei Times and a former analyst at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday last week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) wrote: “The KMT must fall for Taiwan to improve.’ Allow me to ask the question again: Is this really true?” It matters not how many times Hsu asks the question, my answer will always be the same: “Yes, the KMT must be toppled for Taiwan to improve.” In the lengthy Facebook post, titled “What were those born in the 1980s guilty of?” Hsu harked back to the idealistic aspirations of the 2014 Sunflower movement before heaping opprobrium on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP)
The scuffle between Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji and a Taiwanese diplomat at a Republic of China (ROC) Double Ten National Day celebration has turned into a public relations opportunity for the government, Beijing and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Although the incident occurred on Oct. 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) downplayed it, only for the story to be picked up by the foreign media, forcing the ministry to respond. The public and opposition parties asked why the government had failed to remonstrate more strongly in the first instance. It is still unclear whether the ministry missed a trick
US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, former US vice president Joe Biden, are holding their final debate tonight. In their foreign policy debate, China is sure to be a major issue of contention for the two candidates. Here are several questions the moderator should pose to the candidates: For both: In the first televised US presidential debates in 1960, then-Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy and his Republican counterpart, Richard Nixon, were asked whether the US should intervene if communist China attacked Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu. Kennedy said no, unless the main island of Taiwan was also attacked.
For most of us, the colorful, otherworldly marinescapes of coral reefs are as remote as the alien landscapes of the moon. We rarely, if ever, experience these underwater wonderlands for ourselves — we are, after all, air-breathing, terrestrial creatures mostly cocooned in cities. It is easy not to notice the perilous state they are in: We have lost 50 percent of coral reefs in the past 20 years and more than 90 percent are expected to die by 2050, a presentation at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego, California, earlier this year showed. As the oceans heat further and