OTTAWA — A Liberal MP accused of benefiting from Chinese interference during his election has twice missed Parliamentary votes declaring Beijing’s treatment of Muslim Uyghurs a genocide.
By Ryan Tumilty
March 1, 2023
Toronto MP Han Dong is alleged to have received assistance from the Chinese consulate in 2019 when he successfully ran for the party’s nomination.© Provided by National Post
Toronto MP Han Dong is alleged to have received assistance from the Chinese consulate in 2019 when he successfully ran for the party’s nomination in Don Valley North, based on a recent report from Global News citing unnamed national security sources. According to Global’s reporting, the consulate bused in seniors and Chinese international students to vote for Dong in the nomination contest that was fiercely contested by other Liberal candidates.
Don Valley North is a consistently Liberal riding, with a significant Chinese diaspora population. Dong has won both of his elections in 2019 and 2021 with more than 50 per cent of the vote.
Since Dong came to office there have been two votes connected to the Uyghur genocide. On Feb. 1, this year two Quebec Liberal MPs brought forward a motion highlighting the genocide and calling on the government to come up with a plan to bring 10,000 Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims to Canada .
The motion noted that Uyghurs in other countries are pressured to return to China, where they face the risk of arbitrary detention, forced labour and torture. When the vote came to the floor, Dong missed it. It passed, however, with the unanimous consent of the 322 MPs who were in the chamber.
Dong had been present just before the Uyghur genocide motion to vote for the government’s childcare legislation, and he voted after the Uyghur motion passed in favour of a bill that would change the term child pornography in the criminal code to child sexual abuse and exploitation material.
John Ivison: China’s election interference could devour Trudeau and his party
Tasha Kheiriddin: Holding Trudeau to account for China’s election interference demands smarter Conservative party
Dong also missed a vote in his first term in office that declared what the Chinese government was doing to the Uyghurs was in fact a genocide. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet abstained from that vote, but his MPs were free to vote as they chose. No MPs voted against it.
Since March 2021, MPs have been able to vote via an app, and during the pandemic they could vote remotely through Zoom.
Jonathan Miller, a senior fellow and Director of Foreign Affairs with the MacDonald Laurier Institute, said for the Chinese government criticism of how they treat the Uyghurs is a direct attack.
Related video: Canada needs a non-partisan inquiry into foreign election interference, says former Trudeau adviser(cbc.ca)
“It is getting into one of the most sensitive issues. China would list a range of issues as what they call ‘core interests’,” he said.
Miller said those core interests include the Uyghurs, Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan and the Chinese government bristles against any criticism on those fronts.
“These are what China would refer to as internal matters.”
Several recent media reports have suggested the Liberals benefited from Chinese interference during both the 2019 and 2021 elections. Former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu has said he believes he was the victim of Chinese government misinformation, which he said targeted ridings with large Chinese communities like his, Steveston-Richmond East, as well as the neighbouring B.C. riding of Richmond Centre and the Greater Toronto Area riding of Markham Unionville.
Liberal MPs were elected in all of those ridings in 2021, but all of them voted in favour of denouncing the Chinese genocide against the Uyghurs on Feb. 1.
There were two other votes in Parliament between the 2019 and 2021 elections directly related to China: one denouncing China’s foreign policy and calling on the government to make a decision on Huawei within 30 days and the other creating the parliamentary committee on Canada-China relations.
Dong voted against both of those motions, but so did the entire Liberal caucus. Dong has applauded his government’s decision to expand work permits to residents of Hong Kong seeking to come to Canada, saying on Twitter that “ Hong Kong residents who share Canada’s values of freedom and democracy,” should be able to live and work here.
Dong did not respond to questions about the missed votes or his view on the Uyghur genocide before press time, but he has denounced media reports suggesting he was helped by foreign interference.
“I strongly reject the insinuations in media reporting that allege I have played a role in offshore interference in these processes and will defend myself vigorously against such inaccurate and irresponsible claims,” he said in a statement released on Monday.
Trudeau defended Dong as well on Monday saying he was a valuable member of the government.
“Han Dong is an outstanding member of our team and suggestions that he is somehow not loyal to Canada should not be entertained,” he said.
Trudeau denied the government had been warned by CSIS about Dong’s candidacy and said while he values the advice he receives from the spy agency, it does not dictate who can run in an election.
“It is not up to unelected security officials to dictate to political parties who can or cannot run,” Trudeau said.