In early December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canadian government would follow allies and not send politicians or diplomats to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, because of “repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government.”
But Liberal MPs and other politicians in Metro Vancouver are continuing to engage with officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government on Canadian soil. Two Richmond politicians even expressed support for the Games and told a state-affiliated TV outlet that politics and sport should not mix.
David Mulroney, who was Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, called it a “blot on the record” of those politicians disregarding the diplomatic boycott.
“The fact that local politicians are really dancing to the tune of China’s senior official in the region is, to my mind, just unconscionable and it should not happen,” Mulroney said in an interview. “There should be Canadian solidarity on issues around human rights.”
Ivy Li, with the Canadian Friends of Hong Kong, said those politicians are “countering our democratic values and participating in the propaganda.”
The annual Chinatown parade was cancelled due to the pandemic, but Consul General Tong Xiaoling, People’s Republic of China’s top diplomat in B.C., attended a private Jan. 30 Lunar New Year of the Tiger ceremony Chinatown. She wore a Beijing 2022 scarf and delivered a speech about the Games and the CCP’s centennial. She also posed for photos with 2021-elected Liberal MPs Taleeb Noormohamed (Vancouver Granville), Parm Bains (Steveston-Richmond East) and Wilson Miao (Richmond Centre), Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Vancouver Coun. Pete Fry, and BC Liberal MLA Michael Lee. Also in attendance were NDP Minister of State for Trade George Chow and Burnaby Coun. James Wang. A Phoenix TV clip shows an Olympic-style parade of national flags led by a large Chinese flag. Smaller Canadian flags were carried behind it.
Miao and Noormohamed did not respond to interview requests.
Bains was seated to Tong’s right during the ceremony. According to a statement attributed to him: “While Canada and China have differences with one another, I believe that open dialogue is more helpful in how we approach our diplomatic relations with China. I will continue to share and promote Canadian values and be a vocal advocate for human rights with all diplomats that are stationed here in Canada.”
Bains subsequently admitted he did not actually discuss human rights with Tong, but “I did indicate to the CG that it was very important to continue dialogue to discuss our differences.”
Fry said that he attended in his role as deputy mayor and did not know that Tong would attend or be a speaker.
“I support Canada’s diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, but there is no boycott of Vancouver’s Chinatown that I am aware of or that I would support,” Fry said.
Ivy Li of Canadian Friends of Hong Kong said the event organizers, the Chinese Benevolent Association and Guangdong Community Association of Canada, have close ties to the consulate, which represents a foreign government rather than B.C.’s diverse ethnic Chinese community.
“There's no way those politicians didn't know about the nature of these two groups, and that this event would be propaganda for CCP,” she said.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s only publicized Lunar New Year ceremony was the launch of Lunarfest Vancouver, a Taiwan government-sponsored Lunar New Year lantern festival.
In November, Tong made international headlines when she publicly opposed Vancouver city hall exploring a friendship city arrangement with Taiwan’s second-largest city, Kaohsiung.
Last April, Stewart turned down meetings with Chinese diplomats when Beijing sanctioned friend and Conservative MP Michael Chong after the House of Commons condemned the mass-detention of Uyghur Muslims as genocide.
On Jan. 24, Tong headlined a 10-day countdown to the Games ceremony that included guests Brodie, Richmond Coun. Alexa Loo, and ex-Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan.
Brodie told Phoenix TV that he hoped politics “doesn’t get in the way of a very successful Olympic Games.”
Said Loo on the same broadcast: “It shouldn't be the athletes’ job to tell other governments how they should run their country. And it's not, you know, the politicians’ job to tell us whether or not we get to compete.”
Brodie did not respond to an interview request. Loo said she did not have time to answer questions.
Human rights activist Li said it is disingenuous for politicians to suggest politics and the Games should be separate, especially when it is the same politicians whose careers have benefitted from their attachment to the Games. Brodie has enjoyed 20 years in office and was re-elected twice since Richmond hosted Olympic speed skating in 2010. Loo was first elected in 2014 on a campaign that promoted her past as a Canadian snowboarder at Vancouver 2010.
“They're essentially helping the regime to sugarcoat their brutal behaviour, and their genocidal behaviour in East Turkestan (aka Xinjiang), as well as to the majority of the people in China and also their aggression to us,” Li said. “I mean, we have to remember the two Michaels and as well as there's two other Canadians on death row.”