The courting of new Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, by Chinese corruption suspect Michael Ching Mo Yeung
EXCLUSIVE: How graft suspect Michael Ching allied himself with Canada's new leader, with the help of ex-minister Raymond Chan; pro-Trudeau political organisation was based in Ching's office, and Liberal special advisor Wang Ting Ting acted as a director
UPDATE: Michael Ching Mo Yeung has commenced legal proceedings against South China Morning Post in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Mr Ching alleges in his lawsuit that this article contains false and defamatory statements, and that the conduct of South China Morning Post and its reporter was malicious, reprehensible, high-handed, and blameworthy.
An investigation by the South China Morning Post has revealed how Chinese corruption suspect Michael Ching Mo Yeung manoeuvred himself and his daughter into the orbit of Justin Trudeau as he campaigned to become Canada's next prime minister, using a pro-Trudeau political group that was headquartered in Ching’s office.
Ching’s attempts to insert himself at the heart of Canadian federal politics were facilitated by his friend, former cabinet minister Raymond Chan, Liberal Party sources said. This was also supported by documents and numerous photographs obtained by the Post.
One picture shows Ching, a Liberal member, lining up to vote at the party’s British Columbia convention in 2013, surrounded by members of the pro-Trudeau youth group dressed in red vests emblazoned with declarations of support for the Liberal party leader. Ching is also seen relaxing with Chan and his wife on the convention sidelines.
Another striking image shows Trudeau with Ching at a major fundraising gala that the organisation based in Ching’s office helped stage. The Liberal leader sat between Ching and Chan during the 1,000-head 2013 dinner.
Meanwhile, Trudeau’s encounters with Ching’s teenage daughter, Linda, began as early as October 3, 2012, when she was chosen to deliver a trilingual speech introducing him to a packed press conference at Vancouver’s airport hotel. It was one day after he announced his long-anticipated bid for the Liberal leadership.
Standing before throngs of national media and 1,000 Trudeau supporters, the high-school student declared in Putonghua, English and French that her first vote would be for Trudeau.
The only son of disgraced Communist Party official Cheng Weigao, Michael Ching, 45, is being pursued by China for alleged embezzlement and concealing illegal gains. He is seeking refugee status in Canada.
A Liberal Party spokesman said Trudeau did not know Ching was wanted by China and seeking refugee status before it was revealed by the South China Morning Post this April. There is no indication that Chan or his wife – the Liberal Party’s “special advisor” for the Chinese community, Wang Ting Ting - knew either, and the Post has no evidence of Ching’s guilt or innocence.
A Liberal source said that Ching, a wealthy property developer, had a reputation in the Vancouver Chinese community as Chan’s most important supporter, and he and his daughter were handled by Chan “with top care”.
“He treated him [Ching] as a god,” the source said.
In turn, Chan, a former MP and minister for multiculturalism, is widely regarded as one of the Liberals’ best fundraisers and a kingmaker in the party’s ethnic Chinese circles.
Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, became Canada’s new leader Monday after his Liberal Party won a majority of Parliament’s 338 seats.
The pro-Trudeau organisation based in Ching’s office, the Tru-Youths United Association, helped Chan orchestrate major events at which Trudeau was the guest of honour, boosting Ching’s status far beyond that which he could have attained via personal political donations, which are currently limited to C$1,500 (HK$8,670) per year. Linda Ching was installed as the association’s president and Wang was a director.
One official Liberal Party event that Tru-Youths helped stage was a gala attended by Trudeau at Vancouver’s Hyatt Regency on June 2, 2013, which grossed a six-figure sum for the party. Another Tru-Youths-linked event, a December 17, 2014, community Christmas dinner, turned into a surprise birthday party for Trudeau. Held at the huge Floata Chinese restaurant in Vancouver, the event was attended by 2,000 people, including the Chings and Chan, who was MC.
Trudeau cut a large cake with his name on it and was mobbed by scores of cheering Tru-Youths members in their distinctive red vests.
Between these two major functions, Tru-Youths busily established Trudeau fan clubs in Vancouver universities and performed outreach to high schools. It was also said by Linda Ching to have signed up more than 1,000 supporters for Trudeau.
The registration papers and original certificate of incorporation for Tru-Youths United list Linda Ching and Chan’s wife, Wang, among its five directors. Both documents list the organisation’s address as 4030-8171 Ackroyd Rd, Richmond – in what was the office of Michael Ching’s real estate company, Mo Yeung International Enterprise Ltd. The firm has since relocated nearby.
Neither Chan nor Wang responded to interview requests.
Tru-Youths’ most important event appears to have been the gala dinner held at the Hyatt in 2013, to celebrate Trudeau’s victory in the party leadership race. Trudeau sat at the head table with Michael Ching to his left; on the leader’s right sat Chan.
The trio was captured together in a photo published the next day by Chinese-language news website GCPnews.com; it was simply captioned “Justin Trudeau and guests”.
They watched as Ching’s daughter took to the stage as an MC. Linda Ching also acted as the Putonghua translator for Trudeau, since most of the guests were from the city’s Chinese community. A Chinese-language account in Vancouver’s New Leaf Weekly magazine described her performance: “A 17- or 18-year-old girl, who worked as Trudeau's interpreter, was equally impressive [as Trudeau]. She switched between Chinese, English and French effortlessly, and was polite and decent in her response, a charming combination of youthfulness and competence.”
The C$120-per-head dinner grossed about C$120,000, and was described by Trudeau as “the biggest dinner he had ever attended”, according to Tru-Youths’ now-defunct Sina Weibo account, although this may be hyperbole.
A Chinese-language posting about the gala on Trudeau’s own Weibo account four days later thanked “the efforts of the young volunteers from my fan club. Your enthusiasm and support have touched me a lot. Let’s work together to create a hopeful future for Canada.”
In an article she later wrote for the National Women’s Liberal Commission’s (NWLC) newsletter, Linda Ching hailed the experience that evening for having “taught me how to remain composed under pressure, think on my feet”.
The event also served as a vital springboard for her political aspirations; less than six months later, she would be elected unopposed as the President of the Young Liberals of Canada in BC (YLCBC).
‘We were like, who is this kid?’
Liberal party sources said that Linda Ching’s presidency of the party’s provincial youth wing came as a direct result of her being chosen as co-chair of the BC branch of the Liberals’ Biennial Convention in Whistler in November, 2013.
It was an appointment that surprised some. “We were like, who is this kid who was co-chairing, who got up and spoke as co-chair?” a source who attended the convention said.
Another attendee said: “Yes, I was surprised. I had been in the party for a while and I had never heard her name. Other co-chairs, I knew who they were, but I’d never heard of Linda before.”
The Post’s party sources said both Michael and Linda Ching were with Chan throughout the November 1-3 convention. Although Linda Ching was acclaimed unopposed as the next YLCBC president later that month, this only came about because she had already been handpicked as convention co-chair by the party’s campaign establishment, they said.
A busload of Tru-Youths members in their trademark red uniforms turned up to the Whistler convention to “cheer for Linda”, one said. “These were [depicted as] ‘Linda’s Tru-Youth’…they wanted to show that she’s got a lot of support for the leader [Trudeau], and for Raymond Chan, for his [Chan’s] whole power base.”
Michael Ching also attended the convention as a voting member. In addition to the photos obtained by the Post that show him queuing to vote as Tru-Youths members mill around behind him, other images show him sitting on a sofa with Chan and Wang, whose business card calls her the Liberal’s “special advisor” for the Chinese community and communications.
“Raymond Chan, the whole time, was with them,” introducing them to party members, the source said. “He was taking them everywhere, both Michael Ching and Linda Ching,” he added.
Other photos from the convention show Chan posing with Linda Ching and about 40 Tru-Youths members.
Another source said his confusion about Linda Ching’s role in the party was eventually cleared up by a fellow delegate. “Somebody told me, ‘oh, the reason that girl is the co-chair is her father is a big fundraiser for Raymond, for the party’,” he said
The Post’s sources agreed that the 2013 Whistler convention was the first time that many in the party - from outside Richmond and the Chinese community, at least - became familiar with Linda Ching by name.
Of her star turn introducing Trudeau in 2012, at the height of a frenzy of interest in the son of Canada’s most iconic leader, the first source said: “They [Trudeau’s team] didn’t know who she was …They didn’t know she was related to Michael Ching.”
Linda Ching would later call it an “amazing experience” in her NWLC article.
Exactly how Trudeau or his handlers came to choose Linda Ching for this role at a crucial point in his career is unclear. Liberal spokesman Olivier Duchesneau said: “Just like other young active volunteers of the Party, she had the opportunity to have speaking roles at some events and was invited to co-chair the provincial convention.
“The Liberal Party of Canada always tries to reflect the diversity of Canadians when selecting speakers, moderators, and chairs for events.”
Duchesneau said Trudeau had “no relationship” with Linda Ching “beyond the fact that he was aware that she was the president of the youth wing at the provincial level and has encountered Ms Ching as an active liberal”.
All mention of Ching’s involvement in the convention has disappeared from the event’s website, although a reference to her co-chair role, written by Linda Ching, can still be seen in the PDF version of the NWLC newsletter.
But what is apparent, from the accounts of the Post’s sources and Linda Ching herself, and numerous photos, is that Raymond Chan played a key role in her and her father’s political involvement.
‘Michael Ching hooked up with Raymond Chan long, long ago’
The SCMP’s sources said Linda Ching began working as a Liberal volunteer around 2008 when she was aged 11 or 12, as a result of her father’s friendship with Chan.
This timeline matches an account Linda Ching apparently gave to New Leaf Weekly magazine.
“Linda started to work for the Liberal Party as a volunteer as early as 2008. To a young girl full of dreams and hopes, the experience provided a deeper understanding of politics and led her to come into personal contact with Raymond Chan,” the magazine said in its December 27, 2014, edition, which featured Linda Ching on its cover, describing her in a glowing interview as “the perfect girl”.
In her own account written for the NWLC newsletter, Linda Ching said she “first got myself involved in politics in 2008. I helped out during honourable Raymond Chan’s campaign.”
She said that in 2011, “interim [Liberal] leader Bob Rae recruited Honourable Raymond Chan to help rebuild the party and I have been part of the team since.”
The first source said: “Michael Ching hooked up with him [Raymond Chan] long, long ago.”
In photos that have emerged in the five months since the South China Morning Post revealed that Ching was the corruption suspect known to Beijing as Cheng Muyang, Chan is shown introducing Michael Ching to Liberal immigration critic John McCallum and star Liberal candidate Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie.
Photos obtained by the Post show Chan and Wang with Linda Ching at other Liberal social events both before and during her now-ended presidency of the Young Liberals (the Post is not publishing these photos, since they appear to have been taken in a casual environment and it is not clear whether Linda Ching is a minor at the time); a Liberal source who attended the same events said they would often arrive together and sit together.
Limited in his personal contributions by Canada’s strict federal donation caps, Michael Ching has officially given about C$7,600 to the Liberals since 2006. There were also smaller donations to the ruling Conservatives, but these ceased in 2012, around the time Ching launched an ongoing C$1.75 million damages lawsuit against two Conservative ministers stemming from his failure to have been granted citizenship.
But it was in late 2012 or early 2013 that the businessman’s political involvement with the centre-left Liberals stepped up a notch, to support Trudeau in a way that transcended donation caps.
Tru-Youths was launched and, according to Linda Ching’s NWLC account, the group signed up more than 1,000 supporters for Trudeau’s leadership bid, its volunteers hitting train stations and events such as the local Chinese New Year parade.
The red-vested members’ of Tru-Youths did not literally wear their adoration of Trudeau on their sleeves – but they did wear it on their chests (sometimes wearing badges with Trudeau’s face on it) and on their backs (with the declaration that they were “Tru Fans” in English and a similar slogan in Chinese).
“It was weird. At first we thought they must be students from Thompson Rivers University,” said an attendee of the 2013 Hyatt dinner, describing the uniformed ranks of “Tru Fans” who sang on stage, acted as chaperones and ushers for guests, and were marshalled in their organisational efforts by Linda Ching. Trudeau later posed for a photo with them, sharing it on his Sina Weibo account.
How Tru-Youths was funded is not clear, since the organisation has never filed a financial statement, according to Michael Ching’s lawyer, David Lunny. Stressing that he did not represent Tru-Youths, Lunny sought this month to deter the Post from attending Ching’s office to obtain the society’s records.
“In short, as the directors have placed no financial statements before the membership at an AGM, there are simply no such financial statements to produce … They obviously cannot be provided to you or anyone else and you would save yourself some time and effort by not attending to seek to view and copy something which does not exist,” Lunny said by email.
Michael Ching and Linda Ching have failed to respond to the SCMP’s repeated requests for an interview over the past five months, and Lunny requested that the Post make “no further telephone calls to my office or that of my client, Mr Ching”.
In a letter this week, Lunny said the Post “has clearly embarked upon and is intent to pursue a relentless campaign to besmirch and defame [Ching] and others”, adding that a summary of this article provided for comment was “libelous” and “evidence of malice” towards Ching.
Linda Ching is Tru-Youths president, but its chairman is listed in the society’s registration as fellow director Alex Pan Haoxiang. However, Pan denied having an official role in the group in a brief phone interview with the SCMP. “No, no, no, I am just a volunteer,” said Pan this month, before hanging up.
None of the other young directors of Tru-Youths United responded to the Post’s written requests for an interview.
The fact that Michael Ching is the same man as Cheng Muyang, wanted by China and Interpol, has been admitted by Ching in federal court as part of his bid for refugee status.
Like Trudeau, he is a scion of political power. Unlike Trudeau, he spent much of his life failing to acknowledge that fact. Ching is the son of Cheng Weigao, the disgraced Hebei governor who was himself investigated for corruption and expelled from the Communist Party in 2003.
NOTE: This story was originally published on September 30, 2015, ahead of the October 20 Canadian election. It was updated with minor edits on October 20, 2015, to reflect the fact that Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party had won the election.
Raymond Chan - Chinese Canadian political kingmaker?
Raymond Chan, 63, Canada’s former minister for multiculturalism, has long enjoyed a reputation as a kingmaker in ethnic Chinese circles of the centre-left Liberal Party.
Liberal Party spokesman Olivier Duchesneau said Chan remains “well-respected in many communities across Canada”. “It should be no surprise that he still lends a hand to his political party,” he said.
Hong Kong-born Chan was elected to parliament in 1993 representing the riding of Richmond, epicentre of a huge wave of immigration from Hong Kong in the run-up to the 1997 handover. He rose to prominence via the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement, which he founded in the wake of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square in 1989. His stance towards China has since softened considerably, critics say.
Chan lost his seat in the 2000 election; ironically, the Canadian Alliance candidate who beat him, Joe Peschisolido, would later cross the floor to join the Liberals, much to Chan’s outrage.
In 2002, Chan set up a movement that he said was dedicated to boosting ethnic Chinese participation in Canadian politics and in the process signed up thousands of Liberal members, many of them new immigrants.
One told the SCMP that “at the time I thought this was pretty good, you know, encouraging Chinese to get involved in politics.”
But later Chan would use the recruitment campaign as leverage to reclaim the Liberal nomination from Peschisolido, in a snub to the sitting MP. Chan went on to win Richmond for the Liberals again in the 2004 election and was duly appointed multiculturalism minister by Prime Minister Paul Martin, becoming the nation’s first Chinese Canadian cabinet minister.
Since losing his seat in 2008 he has gained a reputation as one of the party’s most potent fundraisers, tapping his connections in Vancouver’s Chinese community.
Liberal sources said Chan was a driving force behind the party’s 1,000-seat, C$120-per-head dinner for Justin Trudeau that the Tru-Youth’s United Association helped run in June 2013; Chan sat next to Trudeau at that event, with Chinese corruption suspect Michael Ching Mo Yeung on Trudeau’s other side.
Chan also helped organise another major gala attended by the Liberal leader last month, billed as a “Chinese Canadians for Justin Trudeau” event at the Hotel Vancouver. Tickets for the August 19 dinner were C$218 per head.
UPDATE: On August 23, 2016, Interpol concluded that data registered in its files concerning Michael Ching Mo Yeung was not compliant with Interpol’s rules and, accordingly, the data including the Interpol “red notice” previously issued was deleted.