There are few certainties in life, but when the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies a report about some nefarious behavior conducted on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), there is almost certainly truth to the alleged behavior.
When ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning (毛寧) described reports of the arrest in March of a British parliamentary researcher for having spied for Beijing as “completely fabricated and nothing but malicious slander,” that justified the UK’s Conservative Party taking a closer look at how it engages with the CCP.
News of the arrest, which was only made public by British police on Saturday last week, has already sparked calls for increased security around Westminster and a major rethink of the British government’s official policy toward China. For many members of parliament, this major rethink must include clarity over how the UK’s relationship with China is defined.
During a parliamentary debate on the issue following the arrest report, former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan-Smith and former British prime minister Liz Truss called on the government to define China as a threat.
British lawmaker Alicia Kearns, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and lead author of a report that for the first time referred to Taiwan as an “independent country,” also called for clarity on the UK’s stance toward China. Kearns was one of the prominent British politicians linked with the arrested researcher.
The problem is certainly not the UK’s alone. On Tuesday, Conservative Party of Canada lawmaker Michael Chong (莊文浩), a vocal opponent of the CCP’s rights abuses against the Uighur community in Xinjiang, testified to the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearings about countering transnational repression by Beijing. Chong spoke about how Chinese security forces had targeted him in a political interference campaign.
Chong is not the only Canadian lawmaker to have been targeted in this way. Former Canadian Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole has said that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) found an “active campaign of voter suppression” by China against him and his party, while Hong Kong-born New Democratic Party lawmaker Jenny Kwan (關慧貞), who has fought for the rights of Hong Kong residents, said that she was also recently informed by the CSIS that she has been a target of Chinese government interference for years.
There is a definite theme in these reports. It is unclear exactly how much of this Mao would classify as “nothing but malicious slander.”
As a Canadian lawmaker, Chong’s appearance before the US congressional committee was a rare event. He called for a joint approach to sharing information about Chinese security forces’ attempts to interfere politically in the operation and institutions of democratic nations, an idea that could be applied to other democratic nations that have been targeted by Beijing, including Taiwan.
In an interview with Politico, Chong said: “Beijing’s targeting of me has only further emboldened me.”
That effect applies on the individual level and the national level. The CCP’s efforts to subvert Taiwan’s elections with military intimidation or economic coercion have only galvanized sentiment against China among Taiwanese.
While other nations are discussing how best to counter Beijing’s efforts to subvert their democratic elections, Taipei should be pulling out all the stops to ensure that next year’s presidential elections are protected from CCP interference, which could include approaching other democratic governments about how best to join forces.
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