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Ottawa Protest Organizer Previously Met With United Front Official in China

One of the directors of an organization that recently held a protest in Ottawa previously met with an official of China’s lead agency in charge of foreign influence, the United Front Work Department (UFWD). Key organizers of the protest have rallied some people in local Chinese Canadian communities to oppose the proposed creation of a foreign agent registry in Canada.

The group behind the June 24 protest on Parliament Hill, the Commission of Marking the 100th Anniversary of Chinese Exclusion Act, is a federally incorporated not-for-profit created on May 1.

A day earlier, Zhang Jian, one of its directors, had attended a meeting of the Council of Newcomer Organizations where he encouraged the Chinese community to participate in the June 24 rally. He also attended a Zoom meeting on May 10, titled in Chinese, “From the 100th Anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act to the e-4395 petition,” to promote the parliamentary petition (e-4395) that opposes Canada’s proposed foreign agent registry.

The “Chinese Exclusion Act,” officially called the Chinese Immigration Act, led to the prohibition of Chinese immigrants at the time.

Zhang’s close contact with UFWD-linked organizations can be seen from various reports by Chinese state-run media.

The UFWD is the regime’s primary foreign interference tool, according to a June 9, 2020, study by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). Public Safety Canada cited the study, saying that “Beijing uses the UFWD to stifle criticism, infiltrate foreign political parties, diaspora communities, universities and multinational corporations.”

Briefed on United Front Work

In the media reports, Zhang is often identified as president of the Xuzhou Association of Canada (XAC). The association was established in April 2019 with Zhang as founding president.

On Oct. 11, 2019, Zhang travelled to China and met with Wu Bin, then executive deputy minister of the Xuzhou municipal committee of the UFWD, according to an article posted on WeChat by the Xuzhou municipal UFWD.

The Epoch Times contacted Zhang for comment but didn’t hear back.

Promoting the Communist Party

Shortly after Zhang’s meeting with Wu in China, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Zhang quickly organized a large-scale campaign to send personal protective equipment (PPE) from Canada to China.

In what appears to be a cellphone screenshot, the XAC urged Chinese diasporas in Canada to donate to Xuzhou via e-transfer to the organization’s Royal Bank of Canada account. The screenshot was included in an article posted on WeChat by the Xuzhou municipal-level branch of the Jiangsu Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese (JFROC).

The JFROC in turn is the provincial-level branch of the national All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese (ACFROC), whose charter says the ACFROC is dedicated to promoting the ideologies and image of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) overseas.

The ACFROC is a UFWD agency, according to the 2020 study by ASPI.

Epoch Times Photo
An empty shelf in a local pharmacy that used to be stocked with masks that are now sold out, as people scramble to protect against the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 22, 2020. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)

In March 2020,  Zhang established an “overseas Chinese community pandemic prevention mutual assistance group” with the provincial JFROC’s support. In a video posted on WeChat, Zhang praised the CCP, saying, “Under the leadership of the Party and government, we will definitely be able to overcome this epidemic and restore our peaceful lives.”

Opposing Foreign Agent Registry

Sen. Victor Oh worked with Zhang’s Commission of Marking the 100th Anniversary of Chinese Exclusion Act to organize the June 24 protest on Parliament Hill. The organizers have also been making use of the occasion to promote opposition to a foreign agent registry in Canada.

Oh told the audience at a Montreal event on June 12 that he views the proposed foreign registry act as a “disguised Chinese Exclusion Act” and said it would be used to suppress Chinese-Canadians. He urged the attendees to sign the e-4395 petition to oppose the registry.

Shortly after The Epoch Times published a report on some residents in the Toronto Chinese community being offered a free bus ride and a $15 “lunch subsidy” to join the protest in Ottawa, the organizers issued instructions to the participants asking them to say that they wouldn’t support or sign the petition.

Epoch Times Photo
One of the buses taking participants to Ottawa for a protest on Parliament Hill, preparing to  leave from the Richmond Hill, Ont., area on the morning of June 24, 2023. (The Epoch Times)

At the protest, a group of demonstrators who appeared to be senior citizens were seen parading in military style on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill. Playing in the background was the Chinese army’s military anthem, “March of the People’s Liberation Army.”

The proposed foreign agent registry aims to increase transparency on those working in Canada to advance the interests of a foreign entity. In February 2022, Sen. Leo Housakos introduced Bill S-237, legislation that would establish a foreign influence registry in Canada. The bill is currently in second reading in the Senate. However, it hasn’t received government support. A similar bill, C-282, was introduced in the House by former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu in April 2021.

Chiu told The Epoch Times in a previous interview that neither his nor Housakos’s proposed legislation mentions “China” or “Chinese,” since a foreign influence registry isn’t meant to target specific countries but to comprehensively address interference attempts by all authoritarian regimes.

Chinese Consulate

Apart from his roles at the XAC and the organization that orchestrated the Ottawa protest, Zhang is also president of the Canadian Association of Chinese Performing Arts (CACPA), a group that says it focuses on promoting Chinese culture.

Since 2018, CACPA has been hosting the annual Toronto Dragon Festival, a cultural event held in downtown Toronto.

Epoch Times Photo
The Chinese Consulate in Toronto is seen on April 25, 2023. (Andrew Chen/The Epoch Times)

At the 2019 festival, China’s consul general in Toronto, Han Tao, gave a speech at the grand opening. Several other Chinese diplomats attended, including vice consul general Zhuang Yaodong and overseas Chinese affairs consul Yang Baohua. Notably, Zhuang allegedly “handled security files out of the Toronto consulate,” according to a February Globe and Mail report.

A few days after the festival, Zhang and his team were invited to Han’s official residence for an appreciation ceremony.

In 2022, the Toronto Dragon Festival was praised as “a bright and beautiful business card exhibiting Chinese culture” in an article on Qiaowang, a website run by the Chinese regime’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO).

The OCAO is part of the UFWD, according to a 2019 article published by the Jamestown Foundation on the “growing role of the CCP’s United Front Work.” The office is believed to be engaged in espionage activities that are “contrary to Canada’s interests,” stated a January 2022 Federal Court ruling.

The Dragon Festival’s WeChat channel has posted a number of articles to promote the Ottawa protest and the e-4395 petition against the foreign agent registry. The festival is partly funded by the federal government, according to its website.

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