(Washington) The Conservative MP at the heart of Canada’s foreign interference saga told his story at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday before attentive U.S. lawmakers determined to confront China’s efforts to undermine tests the limits of Western democracy.
Michael Chong’s message: let’s do it together.
“Canada must work more closely with its democratic allies like the United States to counter Beijing’s efforts to interfere in our democratic life,” Mr. Chong told members of the Congressional Executive Commission on China.
Foreign interference poses a serious threat to the national security of both countries, which requires a unified approach among like-minded allies, he argued.
“We must use every available opportunity to strengthen this partnership to meet the challenge of rising authoritarianism and preserve our fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law,” added Mr. Chong.
The call was well received in Washington, where both Democrats and Republicans now openly describe China as a worrying global aggressor, with far too much economic influence over American life.
Committee members spent the first 30 minutes of the hearing delivering bellicose opening statements, denouncing China’s repressive tactics, including intimidation, harassment of dissidents and assassinations.
“The (Chinese Communist Party’s) strategy of attempting to rewrite global norms has succeeded in too many cases,” said committee co-chairman and New Jersey Rep. Christopher Smith.
“We cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to scare us into submission through these tactics,” he continued.
Christopher Smith’s first question to Mr. Chong was whether the United States and Canada could work more closely together than they already do.
Canada is currently studying the idea of setting up a register of foreign agents to better monitor those who operate on its soil. Ottawa could therefore use the expertise of the United States, which has had one for nearly 100 years, mentioned Mr. Chong.
He also suggested that the two countries compare notes on how best to use “daylight and transparency” to publicly denounce foreign interference activities that might not rise to the level of criminal activity.
“One way to counter this is to make it public, to make the information public, to tell members of the public, members of Congress, members of Parliament, this is exactly what’s happening,” Mr. Chong said.
This type of information “would give citizens and elected officials the details they need to protect themselves,” he argued.
As for the fight against disinformation on social networks, Mr. Chong sang the praises of the model deployed in Taiwan.
“It relies on resilience, on the education system, the primary and secondary education system, and on the empowerment of civil society groups to counter this disinformation,” he argued. Ultimately, we need to balance two competing things: one is countering this misinformation, while also defending media freedom and freedom of expression. »
He demurred when asked whether he was getting the necessary support from the federal government, which has been under political siege for months by the Conservatives, over its handling of the matter.
“Democracies are often slow to respond to the threat of authoritarian states, which can act much more quickly,” observed Mr. Chong. Since the spring, the Canadian government has stood up and supported me. »
The federal government confirmed a media report in May that intelligence officials had detected a Chinese intimidation plot targeting Mr. Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong in 2021. Ottawa expelled Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei after a sustained outcry in Parliament.
In response, the Chinese embassy expelled a Canadian consular employee in Shanghai, and issued a statement accusing Canada of violating international law and acting on anti-Chinese sentiment.
Mr Chong was reportedly targeted after sponsoring a motion in the House of Commons calling Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China a “genocide”. However, he was never informed of these threats, an error he called “a systematic failure of the government apparatus.”
Although that was about the only partisan rancor detectable in Mr. Chong’s testimony, much of what he proposed to address China’s growing economic dominance echoed the conservative doctrine of both countries. .
He proposed banning government funding for Chinese entities engaged in sensitive research and development projects in telecommunications, quantum computing, artificial intelligence and biopharmaceuticals.
He called for regulatory reform in Canada to accelerate natural resource projects the country needs, such as liquefied natural gas export terminals and pipelines, as well as mines and critical mineral processing facilities .
He named Canada as the ideal partner for the United States to provide the world with what he called “cleaner combustion,” and an important alternative source for raw materials used in electric vehicle batteries.
Next week, Justice Marie-Josée Hogue of the Quebec Court of Appeal will begin a public inquiry into allegations of interference in Canadian affairs by China, Russia and other foreign states and non-state actors . This process is expected to take 16 months.
A preliminary report is expected at the end of February, followed by a final report in December 2024.