My Take

China’s latest export to Canada: censors

Chinese-Canadian writers claim their columns have been dropped or that they have received death threats, and suspicion falls on recent migrants

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2016, 11:11pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2016, 11:11pm

A Chinese writer allegedly has his column cancelled after mocking Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅 ). Another journalist receives death threats after writing critically about China’s human right records.

These happened on the mainland? Well no, actually they are both Chinese-Canadians, living and working in Canada. The way a group of angry Chinese-Canadian community activists told it at a press conference held in Toronto this week, mainland efforts at overseas censorship has extended to the Canadian shores, affecting especially the ethnic Chinese community there.

China’s foreign minister scolds Canadian journalist for asking question about human rights

It’s impossible to verify their claims. But long-time columnist Gao Bingchen of the Global Chinese Press, one of the biggest Chinese-language newspapers in Canada, said he lost his column last week because of intense pressure brought on the paper.

It was in reprisal for two critical pieces he wrote: one about Wang’s angry response to a Canadian reporter’s question about China’s human rights record during an official visit to Ottawa, and the other about a defence of China’s human rights record by an Ontario cabinet minister called Michael Chan. Both pieces actually appeared in his own social media account rather than in the paper that published his well-known column.

It is understood that Gao has been offered another column in the paper using a different pseudonym than Huang Hebian, the pen name he has used for a long time. The paper said it was a matter of “internal adjustment”. In my own experience as a newspaperman, columns and columnists are routinely dropped for all kinds of reasons, and outside political pressure is rarely the main determinant.

Meanwhile, according to the conference’s participants, Xin Feng, who writes for the popular Chinese-Canadian website, was sent at least two death threats after writing about Wang and China’s human rights record in a similar vein as Gao. He has called local police, who are investigating.

There is no reason to think the threats originated from official mainland sources. But conference participants strongly hinted that many Chinese migrants in Canada took with them values and practices they learned from the mainland that are at odds with Canadian values such as freedom of expression and of the press.

People leave China for a new life. But some seem to be taking their old battles with them.