More co-operation and co-ordination between Canada and the U.S. is needed to combat foreign interference by China, Conservative MP Michael Chong told the United States Congress Tuesday.
Chong was invited to appear before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, as part of its study into “countering China’s global transnational repression campaign,” to share his experience as a target of foreign interference by Beijing.
“Foreign interference threatens our economy, our long term prosperity, social cohesion, our Parliament and our elections,” Chong testified before the United States Congress in Washington, D.C. “It requires a suite of measures to combat, including closer cooperation amongst allied democracies.”
“Canada must work toward a stronger defence and security partnership with the United States and allies,” he added. “We must look for every opportunity to strengthen this partnership to meet the challenge of rising authoritarianism and to preserve our fundamental freedoms, our democracy and the rule of law.”
Chong’s testimony comes amid multiple reports in the last several months about the Chinese government allegedly and repeatedly targeting the MP and his family in retaliation for his condemnation of China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims.
Commission chair U.S. Representative Christopher Smith called Beijing’s targeting of Chong “unacceptable and outrageous overreach” and said he and his colleagues were “appalled” to learn of it.
Chong appeared before the commission solo, and was followed by a panel of experts. Witnesses were slated to discuss the tactics used by Beijing to interfere in other countries, including “transnational repression and its effects on diaspora and dissident communities in the United States, Canada and worldwide,” according to Tuesday’s meeting notice.
Chong — who is also the Conservative foreign affairs critic — told the commission his experience is but one example of Beijing’s interference in Canada, while “many, many other cases go unreported and unnoticed, and the victims suffer in silence.”
During his testimony, he also repeated his desire to see the Canadian government implement a foreign agent registry — similar to those in Australia and the United States — which the Liberal government has said it will explore.
“I think one way in which we could better co-operate is (by) exchang(ing) information on legislative best models to see what works and what doesn’t,” Chong said. “We have similar judicial systems in our democracies, so that’s one area of cooperation.”
Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc told CTV’s Power Play host Vassy Kapelos last week that his government “hopes to proceed quickly” on legislation to create a foreign agent registry as part of a series of measures to combat foreign interference.
The Liberal government has been discussing the possibility of such a registry since last December.
Witnesses before the commission Tuesday, including Chong, are also offering recommendations for “further congressional and administrative action and transatlantic cooperation,” according to the commission.
Chong previously told CTV News members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are interested in hearing about his experience, “but also that of Hong Kong democracy activists and human rights activists who have been targeted here on Canadian soil by Beijing.”
He also said American officials are interested in understanding the foreign interference situation in Canada as well as discussing solutions to counter it.
Chong told the commission Tuesday some of the ways China allegedly interferes in Canada, including by targeting diaspora groups and international students, launching disinformation campaigns on Chinese-language social media sites, running Chinese police stations abroad, and wrongfully detaining Canadians, for example, the two Michaels, Spavor and Kovrig.
Chong also detailed his recent experience being the target of a disinformation campaign, after a Canadian monitoring system detected a likely China-backed “information operation” targeting him in May.
Last week, after several months of calls — prompted in part by the reporting about Chong being a target of Beijing — the Liberal government launched a public inquiry into foreign interference in Canadian democracy.
“Democracies are often slow to react to the treat of authoritarian states, which can act much more quickly, because it’s one person or a few people (who) rule,” Chong said, in response to a question about whether the Canadian government has been supportive of him amid reports he’s been a target of Beijing.
Chong is not the only Canadian MP or past federal election candidate to allege they’ve been targeted by China. And this summer, a former RCMP officer was charged with foreign interference-related offences, after being accused of helping the Chinese government’s efforts to “identify and intimidate an individual outside the scope of Canadian law.”
“I think it’s important to note that my case is one of many cases across Canada of many Canadians who suffer in silence,” Chong previously told CTV News. “My case happens to be a very high profile case, but there are many, many Canadians who have been targeted by Beijing here on Canadian soil.”
With files from CTV News’ Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Rachel Aiello