Chinese government agency that works with Canadians involved in espionage, says Federal Court

Despite its seemingly long-standing efforts to influence and monitor Chinese Canadians, the Office of Overseas Chinese Affairs has rarely been publicly challenged by authorities here.

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The team worked with a renowned Canadian scientist, a member of the Ontario Legislative Assembly and children from the Toronto area.

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His name sounds more bureaucratic than menacing.

But the Chinese government’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO) is involved in espionage that harms Canada’s interests, a Federal Court judge has claimed in what appears to be a precedent. new decision.

Beijing critics say the judgment – upholding an immigration official’s decision on the matter as “reasonable” – represents a rare official rebuke from the office, now an office of a larger Communist Party department.

Despite its seemingly longstanding efforts to influence and monitor Chinese Canadians, the agency has rarely been publicly challenged by authorities here, says Charles Burton, a former diplomat in Beijing and senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

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“I’m delighted with the decision,” he said. “I hope this sets a tremendous precedent.”

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Both the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP have informed the government of the interference by these Chinese organizations, he said, but politicians tend to suppress the information for fear of harming trade between the two countries.

The Bureau’s actual targets are often too scared — for themselves or for their loved ones in China — to speak out, Burton said.

A spokesperson for the United Front Work Department, the division of the Chinese Communist Party that now controls the OCAO, did not comment directly on the court’s decision, but through the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, he said. describes his work as honest and positive.

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“The united front led by the Communist Party of China should unite people’s hearts and minds, gather strength, actively promote harmony in relations between political parties, ethnic groups, religions, classes and compatriots at home. themselves and abroad…to achieve national prosperity, national prosperity. the rejuvenation and happiness of people,” a statement from the embassy read.

In foreign relations, he said, the party has “always advocated tolerance and mutual appreciation among the different civilizations of the world”.

The decision came in the case of a Chinese couple sponsored by their adult daughter – a naturalized Canadian citizen – to become permanent residents here. They were refused on the grounds that the husband had worked for OCAO in China for 20 years, later as a senior administrator.

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An Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees Canada (IRCC) officer cited a law that prohibits members of organizations that engage in espionage and harm the interests of Canada from immigrating here, and concluded that the Overseas Chinese did the trick.

The couple asked the Federal Court for a judicial review of the decision. The court does not adjudicate such cases, but Judge Vanessa Rochester upheld the IRCC decisionclaiming that it was reasonable to conclude that the OCAO was involved in the espionage given the evidence available to the officer.

“I would say it was about time,” said Cheuk Kwan of the Toronto Association for China Democracy. “It’s time we stopped dodging the question and confronted the fact that there is Chinese espionage and espionage and harassment of dissidents in this country.”

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Overseas Chinese is a term Beijing uses to refer to ethnic Chinese living in other countries, even when their families have resided outside of China for generations.

The agent’s decision and Rochester’s decision were largely based on looking for James Jiann Hua Toa senior adviser to the Asia New Zealand Foundation who has been cited as an expert by both sides in the case.

While the OCAO ostensibly claims to provide support to members of the Chinese diaspora, writes To, its goal is in reality to “legitimize and protect” the party’s hold on power, to restore China’s international image and to exert its influence.

To this end, it collects intelligence and attempts to influence ethnic Chinese people in foreign countries, To says.

Immigration law case law defines espionage as the collection of information carried out covertly.

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The attorney for the would-be immigrants, Yuxia Gao and Yong Zhang, argued that while the bureau’s work can be unpleasant for Canadians, its goals are well known, especially to any potential targets.

But Rochester ruled that the evidence available to the IRCC suggested that the bureau’s methods, including surveillance, subversion and intelligence gathering, were indeed surreptitious.

It is unclear how many of the large contingent of Chinese officials stationed at the embassy and consulates in Canada are involved in the office. But the agency’s presence here has repeatedly surfaced.

Vincent Ke, a Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, attended a week-long seminar in China in 2013 organized by the office, where delegates were encouraged to pursue the “Chinese dream.”

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An esteemed engineering professor at Polytechnique Montreal and a University of Waterloo professor in the institution’s advisory “secretariat” both acted as consultants to the OCAO.

The Bureau praised the Toronto Confederation of China-Canada Organizations in an online article a few years ago, citing its willingness to promote Chinese interests.

The website of the Greater Toronto-based Council of Newcomers Organizations describes “roots research” trips for local children to China, organized by the OCAO.

The office was integrated three years ago into the United Front Work Department, a CCP agency that directs influence operations in foreign countries. The merger means that China is devote “a lot more resources” to such efforts, argued Australian researcher Alex Joske.

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