The Chinese-Canadian community, collateral victim of tensions between Beijing and Ottawa

They have the unpleasant sensation of being caught in the crossfire and denounce a dark period

The Chinese-Canadian community, collateral victim of tensions between Beijing and Ottawa

They have the unpleasant sensation of being caught in the crossfire and denounce a dark period. For the Chinese-Canadian community, there is on the one hand the fear of pressure or intimidation from Beijing, and on the other the rise of stigmatization and discrimination in Canada.

And each new episode of tensions between China and Canada is an additional stress for them. The latest: the expulsion in early May of diplomats by the two countries.

Relations have been at loggerheads between Ottawa and Beijing for several years, especially since the Huawei crisis and the 2018 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the group's chief financial officer, followed by the incarceration in China of two Canadian citizens.

Then there was the Covid-19 pandemic, the “spy balloon” episode, revelations about the presence of clandestine Chinese police stations on Canadian soil and allegations of Chinese interference in Canadian elections.

"We are still considered Chinese, even though many of us have no connection to China. It is felt that we cannot be loyal to Canada," said Amy Go, co-founder of the National Council of China -Canadian for Social Justice.

"For several years, social pressure" has been such "that it is difficult to remain insensitive to it" and diplomatic tensions have "direct repercussions" on our community, had denounced in a column published in mid-May dozens of associations.

"In the past, we lived in fear" and "don't let it happen again," they said, referring to the racism suffered by the first generations of Chinese migrants.

The first Chinese immigrants settled in Canada over 200 years ago. Since then, several waves have followed, notably at the end of the 19th century with the construction of the Canadian Pacific transcontinental railway, which caused the death of hundreds of immigrants.

Today, the Chinese community represents one of the largest ethnic groups in Canada, with 1.7 million people according to the 2021 census.

There is an urgent need for the Canadian government to act against the rise of racism, believe many members of the community.

But it is also important that the government "ensure that Canadians but also residents are not questioned or potentially exposed to risks or threats from foreign countries," said Amy Go.

It is this issue of intimidation that triggered the latest peak of tension between the two countries. Conservative MP Michael Chong and his family, living in Hong Kong, have allegedly come under pressure from China because of the opposition parliamentarian's criticism of Beijing - particularly on the Uyghur issue.

Allegations disputed by China, which denounces Canadian "slander" and "defamation".

These practices of harassment have however already been detailed by activists for human rights, for democracy or for the defense of ethnic minorities and have been documented by Amnesty International in recent years.

"What they do is they use family ties to China or Hong Kong to threaten you," Cheuk Kwan, co-president of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China, told AFP. referring to "death threats, verbal intimidation, or something as simple as we know where your parents live".

Almost daily telephone harassment for years, this is what Dilnur Anwar, a Uyghur woman who arrived in Canada in 2019 to flee persecution, has experienced.

"I blocked numbers but it doesn't change anything because they call all the time with other numbers," the woman who lives in Montreal told AFP. "Sometimes I'm asked to come to the embassy, ​​sometimes it's an automatic message."

"I'm very stressed because I haven't heard from my family for more than six years," adds the frail 40-year-old woman.

The problem is that we only see the "tip of the iceberg" of bullying, which means that "90% of the iceberg escapes us", worries Cheuk Kwan, pro-democracy activist.

On Tuesday, an independent special rapporteur recommended against opening a public inquiry into allegations of interference by Beijing in the last two federal elections in Canada, while acknowledging attempts at foreign influence.

05/24/2023 04:52:22 -         Toronto (Canada) (AFP) -         © 2023 AFP