By Nadine Yousif
BBC News, Toronto
September 13, 2023
Michael Chong said he has not spoken to his family in Hong Kong "out of an abundance of caution" after he learned they were being targeted by Beijing
In a rare testimony before US lawmakers, a Canadian politician has urged for co-operation between the two countries to combat foreign interference by Beijing.
Michael Chong was himself allegedly targeted by China for criticising its human rights record.
He was invited to speak about his experience before a US Congressional committee tasked with monitoring China.
He said Beijing's actions pose a "serious, national threat" to Canada.
"My experience is but one case of Beijing's interference in Canada," Mr Chong told the bipartisan committee on Monday. "Many, many other cases go unnoticed and unreported, and the victims suffer in silence."
Earlier this year, Canada accused China of targeting Mr Chong with a misinformation campaign on the popular messaging app WeChat.
Mr Chong said he also learned through Canadian intelligence that Beijing had been gathering information on him, as well as his relatives in Hong Kong, for the last three years. In 2021, Mr Chong put forward a motion in parliament that declared China's treatment of its Uyghur minority population a genocide.
China has repeatedly denied any attempts to intimidate Mr Chong or interfere in Canadian affairs. In a statement to the BBC, the Chinese embassy in Canada accused Mr Chong of speaking out on China for his own political interests.
"A lie will always remain a lie, be it in Canada or in the United States," the spokesperson for the Chinese embassy said in an email.
In his testimony, the Conservative politician detailed other ways in which he said China has been observed interfering in his country.
This includes recruiting Chinese international students at Canadian universities, he said, who are then coerced by Beijing to spy on other students and activists seen as unfriendly to the Communist Party of China (CPC).
He also raised the issue of Beijing-run "police stations" in Canada that have allegedly been used to coerce some Chinese nationals back to China.
China has denied running overseas police stations, calling them "service centres" for its nationals overseas.
As a target of alleged intimidation himself, Mr Chong said that he had cut off contact with his family in Hong Kong "out of an abundance of caution" to preserve their safety.
"Many, many other people have done the same thing," he said. "This is one of the consequences of (China's) transnational repression."
Mr Chong called on the US and Canada to work together on this issue.
He said this could be done through the sharing of intelligence and publicising China's interference attempts, "to preserve our fundamental freedoms, democratic institutions and the rules-based international order".
Democratic and Republican US lawmakers on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China applauded Mr Chong's testimony.
"We have seen relentless targeting of young activists who have spoken against the increasingly repressive conditions in Hong Kong and we have seen unrelenting pressure that continues to be directed at Uyghurs around the world," said Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley.
The commission, which was established in 2000, keeps tabs on China's alleged intimidation tactics, and monitors a list of people who have vanished in China or taken as political prisoners.
Canada-China relations have been fractured as of late, after the alleged intimidation attempts against Mr Chong were made public.
The issue led Canada to expel a Chinese diplomat in May. China then retaliated and ordered the removal of a Canadian diplomat in its Shanghai Consulate.
Intelligence agencies have also claimed Beijing tried to interfere in federal elections in 2019 and 2021.
Last week, Canada launched a public inquiry into foreign interference by China and other countries.