An Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Re: Free Trade Agreement (FTA)
To: The Right Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
CC: The Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Minster of Foreign Affairs
The Hon. Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety
Mr. Andrew Sheer, Leader of the Official Opposition and Leader of the Conservative Party
Mr. Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the New Democratic Party
Ms. Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party
Mr. Rhéal Fortin, Interim Leader of the Bloc Québécois
Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Re: Free Trade Agreement (FTA) – Please END the Joint Feasibility Study and Exploratory Discussions and DO NOT launch any negotiations with China
Dear Prime Minister,
Knowing that you will visit China next week, we are deeply concerned about how our collective interests as Canadians could be safeguarded when your Government deals with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), especially over free trade.
We, Vancouver Friends of Hong Kong, are a group of Canadians who emigrated from Hong Kong years ago. We have the unique privilege to have experienced in-depth both Canadian and Chinese cultures. Having grown up in Hong Kong with the capability to read, speak and write Chinese, we also understand the mindset of the CCP.
The purpose of any FTA is to remove barriers to trade and facilitates stronger commercial ties. Besides increased trade and economic integration, FTAs will also lead to integration in many other important aspects – economic and non-economic – between countries. Those aspects might include diplomacy and security, science and technology, immigration and tourism, social and cultural exchanges as well as law enforcement, defence and military.
Since many of the economic results of the FTAs has been discussed, we would like to focus on the non-economic fallout in two countries that have signed bilateral FTAs with China: New Zealand (NZ) and Australia (AU).
NEW ZEALAND – oozed to enter hasty negotiation and to sign the FTA
In 2008, NZ became the first OECD country that entered into an FTA with China after 15 rounds of negotiations over three years, which took place after NZ’s recognition of China as a market economy in 2004. China has become NZ’s largest goods export partner since. An agreement to upgrade the FTA was reached in Nov 2016. It is expected that the first few rounds of negotiations would be done by the end of this year.
However, despite the economic success that the NZ government has so proudly claimed, there are strong voices demanding a rethink or even to “light a new stove and re-adjust New Zealand-China relations,” using the expression of Professor Anne-Marie Brady, University of Canterbury in NZ, from her Policy Brief no. 24, Nov 14, 2017. With a new coalition government formed by the Labour, the Greens and the First Party in Oct 2017, NZ Foreign Minister Winston Peters indicated that “there is going to be a change and a clear signal sent internationally that New Zealand is no longer for sale in the way it has been.”
What triggered the demand for the rethink of China policy in NZ is worthy of note, especially for Canadians.
In the past decade or so, NZ’s relationship with China has extended well beyond its trading relationship, and into areas including aid cooperation and mutual recognition of each other’s systems, which is an inevitable consequence of the FTA. In the meantime, according to Prof. Brady, “China’s covert, corrupting, and coercive political influence activities in NZ are now at a critical level.”
She further concluded that “China’s efforts undermine the integrity of our political system, threaten our sovereignty, and directly affect the rights of Chinese NZers to freedom of speech, association, and religion.”
She calls for the NZ government to make legislative and policy changes that will better protect NZ’s interests and help to protect their nation against foreign interference activities more broadly, to face up to some of the political differences and challenges in the NZ-China relationship, including the impact on NZ’s democracy of Chinese political interference, and make a re-adjustment in the relationship so that NZ’s interests come first.
How has all those impacted the average NZers? The insatiable appetite of foreign buyers rushing into the NZ market has made housing affordability the top issue in their election. The new coalition is launching a ban on foreign ownership in 2018,  which found its echo in the Province of British Columbia here at home.
A less talked about socio-economic factor that clearly demonstrated how the average NZers’ interests are compromised by uncontrolled foreign demand is the drastic change of land use and its impact on the environment in NZ. The 2015 Environment Aotearoa report recorded a 28% surge in the land area used for NZ dairy farming over the last 10 years, most of which catered to the feeding needs in China. “This increase in the national dairy herd is causing a corresponding increase in compaction of land (at around 80% of dairy farms), pollution of waterways and greenhouse gas emissions.”
New Zealand has shown the world WHAT NOT TO DO in rushing into negotiations and hastily signing an FTA with China without properly considering the fallout involved. It would not be too late for your Government to END the Exploratory Discussions with China now and NOT TO ENTER into any negotiations of the FTA.
AUSTRALIA – oozed to become oblivious to the warning signs
The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) came into force in Dec 2015 after a 10-year negotiation. By the time when the FTA was signed, Australian bilateral trade with China was already close to outweighing the combined total of trade with Japan, the US and South Korea, Australia’s next three biggest trading partners.
It should be noted that Australia entered into the FTA negotiation with China in 2005, the same year when Chen Yonglin, a former Chinese diplomat, sought political asylum in Australia. Chen’s request for asylum was left hanging and “duckshoved back and forth between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs in Australia.” Chen believed that his case revealed how Australia acted out of concern for maintaining a good relationship with China rather than the respect for individual rights and freedom.
Chen, who in 2005 claimed China was operating a network of “over 1,000 Chinese secret agents and informants in Australia,” spoke out again in 2016 saying that there were way more spies and agents working for Beijing in Australia than before.
Further, the FTA negotiation was well underway against the backdrop of the “sudden mobilization and the arrival of thousands of Chinese students to Canberra to protect the Olympic torch from anti-China protesters in 2008,” which critics cited as the first incident to alarm Australia’s intelligence service that the CCP’s infiltration in Australia has been very much alive and active.
Anyhow, in June 2017, just short of two years after the FTA was signed, CCP’s infiltration in Australia has become so severe and prevailing that Fairfax Media and Four Corners of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation jointly produced an investigative report, “Power and Influence,” to reveal how the Australian sovereignty is under threat. The Australian defence and intelligence community believes that attempts by the CCP to exert its influence in Australia pose a direct threat to the nation’s liberties and its sovereignty.
The investigation mentioned above uncovers how the CCP is secretly infiltrating Australia and tracks the activities of Beijing-backed organizations and the efforts made to intimidate opponents of the CCP. Several key political and business figures have since been under close media and public scrutiny when more and more China-linked revelations are being exposed on a weekly – if not daily – basis.
Canadians should be alarmed to see the political influence activities undertaken by the CCP in Australia follow the same pattern in NZ, which has been portrayed in detail by Professor Anne-Marie Brady of the University of Canterbury in her research, detail of which is outlined in Backgrounder 1 of this open letter.
Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, collected so much evidence of the CCP infiltration in Australia that he was able to write a book, “Silent Invasion: How China is turning Australia into a Puppet State”. Just when his book was about to go to print in Nov 2017, his publisher Allen & Unwin “dropped the book – or delayed it until some vague point in the future after some legal actions had been resolved – because they are afraid of commercially damaging retaliation instigated by the CCP.”
Further information about how the Australian academics and the media look at the CCP influence and infiltration can be found in Backgrounder 2 of this open letter.
One thing of note is that the non-economic issues related to the FTA, highlighted by different Australian sectors prior and during their negotiation with China, are strikingly similar to those considered by your Government today.
Those issues include unequal accessibility of the China market, restrictions on foreign enterprises operating in China, job loss and wage decrease for Canadian workers, China’s record on human rights and labour rights, difficulties to enforce contracts and legal obligations, lack of intellectual property protection, lack of consistent products/service quality, as well as lack of bio-security and safety standards, monopolies of the state-owned enterprises (SOEs), just to name a few.
Many of them are the concerns highlighted in the results of the FTA consultation conducted by your Government between April to June 2017, despite the fact that the overall view of Australians to accept or reject FTA with China was not as split as Canadians.
In terms of the drastic change in land and housing ownership in Australia, Chinese interest in Australian farmland has surged to 14.4 million hectares, up from 1.46 million hectares in 2016.
On residential housing, the Australian government introduced legislation to ban foreign ownership of existing homes on Dec 1, 2015, just weeks before the AU-China FTA came into force on Dec 20, 2015. However, it does not seem to be working. Just recently the state of New South Wales double-taxes on foreign homebuyers trying to tackle the escalated cost in Sydney, which ranks second out of the world’s most expensive housing markets in 2017 after Hong Kong. As you know too well, our own City of Vancouver ranks third after Sydney. The fourth one after Vancouver is Auckland of New Zealand, the largest urban centre of the first OECD country that signed an FTA with China.
When it comes to dealing with the human rights issues in China, the Australian government at that time – like your Government – adopted an approach they claimed to be “constructive and based on dialogue rather than public confrontation”. As for the other issues raised by the different sectors, the Australian government seemed to be mostly oblivious to their concerns.
Nevertheless, since 2005 when the Australians adopted this “positive engagement” approach in their FTA negotiation, the political and social reality in China has undergone a sweeping change. Back then the civil society was gradually developing in China with many rights movements and NGOs thriving, as opposed to the sudden and massive crackdown on media, religions, civil rights movements and on the internet re-launched by the CCP a few years ago.
Australia has shown the world WHAT NOT TO DO when they oozed themselves into oblivion of the concerns raised by their communities and sectors. Once oozed, they also failed to include the safeguard of the well-being of their own citizens as well as the significant improvement of human rights situations in China as prerequisites for them to enter into any FTA negotiations. It would not be too late for your Government to END the Exploratory Discussions with China now and NOT TO ENTER into any negotiations of the FTA.
Oozed to dance with the dragon – Beware!
CCP’s track record in keeping promises and honouring international agreements has been dismal. It unilaterally declared the binding Sino-British Joint Declaration no longer valid. It broke all its promises on universal suffrage and high degree of autonomy to Hong Kong people. It “re-interpreted” Hong Kong’s Basic Law to disqualify elected pro-democracy legislators.
The CCP regime in China also refused to accept a ruling against it in a case over disputed waters of the South China Sea. The judgment of an international tribunal in The Hague came down overwhelmingly in favour of claims by the Philippines, but China says its ‘territorial sovereignty and marine rights’ in the seas will not be affected.
There is ample evidence that we cannot and should not trust that the CCP would abide by any trade agreements and written promises; uphold labour code, environmental regulations and quality assurances, and honour dispute resolutions.
UK national and human rights activist Benedict Rogers was denied entry to Hong Kong without being given a reason. US singer Katy Perry was banned from China for wearing a ‘sunflower dress’ and a Taiwanese flag as a cape when performing in Taipei in 2015.
It can’t be a level playing field when China could arbitrarily deny foreign nationals entry whenever they were displeased. If Canada increasingly depends on China trade, we could face a widespread censorship and self-censorship right here – on Canadian soil, when employers are worrying about their employees unable to enter China or Canadian citizens worrying about unable to find a job if they offend the CCP.
Canadians are already subject to CCP’s long and authoritarian over-reaching arms. One chilling case at hand is John Chang and his wife Allison Lu. David Mulroney, our former Ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, says the case of these two Canadian wine merchants held captive in Shanghai is a troubling sign of a bigger problem. He also observed that incidents of Canadians detained in China over commercial disputes were on the rise. Moreover, he noted that these incidents seem to happen, particularly to Canadians of Chinese origin.
The other case you are aware of: Huseyin Celil, who has been imprisoned over 10 years in China. Celil came to Canada as a refugee, and gained citizenship four years later. Then, on a trip to his wife’s native Uzbekistan, Celil “was arrested by Uzbek police and handed over to Chinese authorities.” He has remained in jail ever since, facing human rights abuses like torture, and lack of access to Canadian consular services. His wife remains in Burlington, Ontario, raising their four children, hoping for his release. His crime? Speaking out and striving for democracy and freedom on behalf of the Uyghurs.
We as Canadians must ask: If Canada enters into FTA with China, would we have effective policies and oversights to safeguard the integrity of our political and democratic institutions, and Canadian core values of democracy, human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law? Could we safeguard our sovereignty?
Financially tying Canada to a powerful dictatorial regime runs a huge risk of eroding our civil liberties and changing our value system by unconsciously supporting authoritarian practices.
A dictatorial regime is an inherent bully. Its bottom line is “ruling power at all costs”. As members of the Chinese Canadian community, we can attest that all the tactics used by CCP in NZ (as outlined in Backgrounder 1) and Australia have also been used in Canada and for quite some time. It is no secret that CCP’s aggressive infiltration is hard at work in the Chinese communities here in Canada. Many of us are often victims targeted by the CCP’s propaganda, manipulation and surveillance.
Chinese Canadians deserve better
We deserve to be protected from CCP infiltration and intimidation by your government. The Canadian-Chinese communities deserve to hear the full spectrum of political voices in Chinese-language media. The Chinese-language journalists deserve to work in an environment free from censorship and self-censorship.
Professor Brady of NZ has put it very well, “The NZ Chinese population are entitled to the same rights to freedom of speech, association and religion in NZ as any other permanent resident or citizen. Not to address the issue of the CCP’s efforts to control this group of NZers is to ignore the basic human rights of 200,000 of our own people.”
So are Chinese Canadians, and you know that we number way, way more than 200,000.
Many of us left Hong Kong to flee the authoritarian rule. CCP’s power is spreading into Canada. We are going to stand our ground and defend our chosen home. We are confident our fellow Canadians would stand with us.
Dear Prime Minister, please END the exploratory discussions with China now and NOT TO ENTER into any negotiations of the FTA, and rethink free trade with China very carefully. Otherwise, you might be oozed to let in Trojan horses instead of cash cows and that will damage our democratic foundation irreversibly.
With deep love for Canada and respectfully yours,
Vancouver Friends of Hong Kong
Research done in NZ has uncovered systematic and extensive interference campaigns targeting democratic institutions, media and organizations by China. The campaigns aim to influence the decision-making of governments and societies in China’s favour, and to gain support for the CCP regime’s political and economic agendas.
KEY POINTS of the research:
A new paper lays bare China’s influence campaign in New Zealand
Concerns raised over political donations and directorships offered to former ministers and relatives
Chinese-owned New Zealand dairy farms said to possibly being used to test advanced missile technology
Professor Anne-Marie Brady of the University of Canterbury is the author of “a major research paper into China’s soft-power campaign in New Zealand, which has detailed how dairy farms have been used for near-space balloon launches by a Chinese company developing high-precision monitoring of the Earth from satellites.”
“The study also details extensive links between China and former New Zealand politicians and their families, and also highlights significant political donations.”
According to Prof. Brady, “China’s covert, corrupting, and coercive political influence activities in NZ are now at a critical level.” Research done in NZ has uncovered systematic and extensive interference campaigns targeting democratic institutions, media and organizations by China. The campaigns aim to influence the decision-making of governments and societies in China’s favour, and to gain support for the CCP regime’s political and economic agendas.
In her policy brief, Professor Brady wrote that “the impact of China’s political influence activities on New Zealand democracy has been profound: a curtailing of freedom of speech, religion, and association for the ethnic Chinese community, a silencing of debates on China in the wider public sphere, and a corrupting influence on the political system through the blurring of personal, political and economic interests.”
She candidly summarized China’s political influence activities into four categories:
1) Targeted efforts to co-opt the NZ business, political and intellectual elite in order to get them to advocate for China’s interests in NZ and internationally. The means used are business opportunities and investments, honours, political hospitality, scholarships, party-to-party links and vanity projects.
2) Targeted political donations via ethnic Chinese business figures with strong links to the CCP.
3) Massive efforts to bring the NZ ethnic Chinese language media, Chinese community groups, and NZ’s ethnic Chinese politicians under CCP control, and efforts to influence their voting preferences.
4) The use of mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships with NZ companies, universities, and research centres; so as to acquire local identities that enhance influence activities as well as provide access to military technology, commercial secrets, and other strategic information.
A recent case:
A New Zealand Lawmaker’s Spy-Linked Past Raises Alarms on China’s Reach
OIA documents confirm National MP Jian Yang did not disclose military intelligence links
Rodney Jones, a Beijing-based economist for Wigram Capital Advisors, says New Zealand needed greater “realism” about how Chinese politics has changed.
New Zealand is at a critically important moment for foreign policy, Jones says, as China’s leader talks of a new era for Chinese socialism.
“In an age of reform and opening up, we could hang on to the hope that China would change and reform and become more liberal and be a power that we could work with. But I think we have to recognise that those days are behind us.”
BACKGROUNDER 2 – AUSTRALIAN ACADEMICS AND THE MEDIA ON CCP INFILTRATION & INFLUENCE
A quick glance at the opinion pieces grouped under the heading “CHINA-AUSTRALIA RELATIONS” on the website of The Lowy Institute, the leading Australian think tank with a global outlook, will enable one to understand the general sentiment among the academics concerning censorship and self-censorship, intimidation and the restricted freedom of expression/speech due to the CCP influence: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/issues/china-australia-relations
The background information of “Power and Influence: The hard edge of China’s soft power” a joint Four Corners/Fairfax Media investigation, and the statements, responses and latest updates after the program was broadcast
China’s Operation Australia: The Chinese Communist Party is waging a covert campaign of influence in Australia – an aggressive form of “soft power” – and while loyalists are rewarded, dissidents live in fear.
 Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association, Submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ‘Australia–China Free Trade Agreement Joint Feasibility Study’, July 2004, p. 4, http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/china/fta/submissions/cfta_submission_4ma23.pdf
 Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Committee Hansard, 16 June 2005, p. 4.
 &  https://www.interest.co.nz/sites/default/files/embedded_images/Brady_policybrief_002.pdf