A Pro-Beijing group is claiming that it helped Toronto’s newly elected mayor, Olivia Chow, beat out dozens of other candidates in the municipal election held late last month.
Canada’s National Post is reporting that two prominent community groups aligned with the Chinese government — including one group that allegedly hosted an illegal Chinese police station in Ontario — “Went all out” to support Chow’s bid for mayor of Toronto by supplying numerous volunteers for her campaign, according to a letter from one of the groups.
Chow insists that the help was unsolicited and the mayor-elect’s staff insist that Chow never requested help from either of the groups.
Last month, Felicity Guo, deputy secretary general of the Canada Toronto Fuqing Business Association (CTFBA), a member of one of the two groups, urged her followers on Chinese social media app, WeChat, to back Chow.
Shirven Rezvany, a spokesperson for Chow, told the National Post, “We did not ask for or co-ordinate any volunteers from either organization,” before pointing out that Chow has been a long-time supporter of Hong Kong democracy, and has spoken out against Beijing’s human rights abuses.
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Whether the help was solicited or not, evidence that the Fuqing Business Association and the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations (CTCCO) helped Chow raises questions about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its influence on Canadian politics.
A Toronto-based commentator and critic of the CCP, told the National Post that it’s unlikely that Chow would be motivated to promote groups associated with the CCP.
However, he did admit that “it is a concern that those pro-Beijingers really have the capacity of mobilization among Chinese diasporas,” adding that, “Those Chinese mainlanders have been programmed with Chinese communist propaganda, brainwashed.”
An immigrant from mainland China, who wished to remain anonymous, told the National Post that the fact that the groups participated in the election is concerning because “they work too close to the Chinese government.”
“I want to ask them, ‘What is your purpose, why did you try to help Olivia Chow?’ … We don’t want any outside power to influence this country,” the anonymous source said.
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Clear ties to the CCP
The Fuqing Business Association has clear ties to the CCP. Its website says it was “set up under the guidance of the United Front and other Chinese government agencies,” the National Post reported.
The United Front is a political strategy implemented by the CCP that involves networks of groups and key individuals that are influenced and controlled by the CCP to advance the communist regime’s interests at home and abroad.
The association has its headquarters in a commercial office space in Markham, Ontario, an address that state-media in China says is the location of one of three Fujian “police service stations.”
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are currently investigating the alleged police stations that many say are used to intimidate Chinese expatriates.
Weng Guoning and Wei Chengyi are two of the association’s honorary leaders who have worked with Toronto’s consulate to push contentious issues championed by Beijing.
The group advocated for the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, pushed Beijing’s stance on Tibet, advocated for the heavily CCP influenced Confucius Institute in Toronto, celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Chinese communist revolution and has been praised online by Beijing’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.
Chow’s spokesperson, Rezvany said that other politicians have engaged with these groups and implied that Chow’s ethnic identity may be playing a role in the backlash.
“We’re beginning to wonder if you’re focusing on her because she is Chinese-Canadian,” Rezvany told the Post.
Chow and her staffers deny willingly receiving help from pro-Beijing groups, however not everyone is convinced.
Andy Lee, a former guerrilla journalist who now reports for Canadian conservative media outlet, Rebel News, took to Twitter to address the controversy.
“Chow is literally *on video* meeting with the CTFQBA and recruiting them to help her win the mayoralty,” she told her over 105,000 followers, adding that, “It is widely known they are under investigation for operating our illegal overseas ‘Chinese police stations.’ Her stooping to that low to win and lying about it is on her.”
In a June 26 tweet Lee blasted Chow as “disgraceful” for allegedly tapping into groups aligned with the CCP to help her win the election.
“Two of the leaders of the CTFQBA meet with Xi Jingping in Beijing as part of their United Front operations. They were integral in planning the recent protest against foreign agent registry, because it would apply to them,” she wrote, adding that,”This is who Olivia Chow tapped to win. Disgraceful.”