Monday, 11 July 2005
[CPC is the Communist Party of China.]
Guo Guoting is not so much happy to be in Canada as he is relieved. And he says he's not going back to China--at least not anytime soon. The 46-year-old lawyer from Shanghai flew in to Ottawa on May 20, travelling on a visitor's visa, ostensibly to attend a meeting. The real reason he's here, he says, is because he's fleeing persecution in his home country. Though he spent most of his career practising international maritime and trade law, in 2003 he redirected his career into the minefield of civil rights, defending jailed journalists, fellow civil rights lawyers, and practitioners of Falun Gong, a religion outlawed by Beijing's Communist regime. Because of his work, he says, police have raided his office and seized his computer, the state suspended his law licence, and on March 10, he was put under house arrest.
Through a network of Chinese dissidents and Falun Gong members abroad, Guoting's cause quickly went international. Among others, then Liberal MP David Kilgour fired off a letter to Beijing, calling for Guo's release. "I wanted them to know that if they want to be respected members of the international community, then they are going to have to respect civil rights," says Kilgour, who's now an independent, having quit the Liberal caucus in April. "They can't treat lawyers this way."
On June 4, the 16th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Guo publicly renounced the oaths he took, as a young member of the Red Guard, pledging lifetime fidelity to the Communist Party of China. "Why do I resign from the Red Guard? Because I agree with the 'Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party,'" Guo says in halting English. Guo wanted to join the movement renouncing membership in the CPC and "push it," he says. "I would ask anyone who is in the Communist party to resign it as soon as possible, because in China if there is no Communist party, a new China will be born."
The "Nine Commentaries" have been circulating feverishly across China's mainland since they were first published in November in the dissident newspaper The Epoch Times. The nine long essays, detailing the history and crimes of the CPC from its inception in 1921, to its seizing power in 1949, through to the present, are most frequently copied across peer-to-peer computer networks (the same ones Canadian teens use to swap illegal MP3 downloads) to get around Beijing's censorship controls. With such titles as "On How the Chinese Communist Party Is an Evil Cult," The Epoch Times published the essays to kick off a campaign urging people to quit the CPC. And so far, the paper claims, more than two-million Chinese citizens have publicly renounced their membership.
Masha Ma, a Chinese national visiting Canada to do graduate work at the University of Toronto, officially quit the Communist party after the commentaries were published. "They helped me develop my own independent thinking and I realized I had been brainwashed to believe so many things," Ma says. At age 8, she says she was a member of the Young Pioneers; at 13, she joined the Youth League and at age 18, while still in high school, she became a full member of the CPC. In her childhood, she recalls being taught to memorize mantras like, "The sun is big, the earth is big, but nothing is bigger than the benevolence of the Party," and "Mommy's close, Daddy's close, but no one is closer than Chairman Mao," Ma says. The essays, she says, only solidified her change of heart, which began after she arrived in Canada and saw a documentary on the Tiananmen Square massacre, and realized she'd been lied to all her life. "As a child, I was told that the protestors were trying to kill the soldiers and that Beijing residents were trying to separate from the state, so they threatened the security of the country. We were even asked to memorize the names of the martyrs--the soldiers," Ma says. Following that, she attended a U of T conference on Canada-China relations. There she met a man whom she was told was a Falun Gong practitioner. "I was so scared because in China they are regarded as an [slanderous term omitted] and all the books and videos are burned." But after doing independent research in the free media, she realized it had all been more lies. Ma even ended up marrying the man she met at the conference.
On the heels of the mass resignations came the high-profile defection on May 26 of the first secretary of the Chinese consulate general in Sydney, Australia, Chen Yonglin. Chen's request for political asylum was initially refused--some have speculated because Australia is seeking closer trade ties with China. Though he's now in hiding, the 37-year-old diplomat has issued statements detailing the existence of vast Chinese spy networks in Australia, the U.S. and Canada. Shortly afterward, Hao Feng Jun, a high-level Chinese security agent, also requested asylum in Australia and corroborated Chen's claims about the spy network.
Rumours of a Chinese spy network operating in North America are nothing new; the government's suppressed Sidewinder report and Washington's Cox Report both detailed the existence of agents in industry and government here and in the States. And only months before Hao and Chen's claims went public, CSIS had once again warned the government about the spread of Chinese espionage in Canada. "We want the government to take action," says Opposition foreign affairs critic, Stockwell Day, who is demanding the government launch an investigation. "To my knowledge they have not yet followed our request of calling in China's ambassador and asking the tough questions that need to be asked about these very serious allegations."
Day also complains that none of these issues are getting any attention from most Canadian media--not unlike their failure to foresee the collapse of the USSR in the late eighties. In fact, just days before Chen's defection, Day had given a major speech on the impact of the "Nine Commentaries" at a conference at the U of T that was even reprinted in The Epoch Times. "It's difficult to get the press gallery to focus on things like Canada's external security needs, democracy and human rights," says Day. And if the seismic shift in Chinese politics begun by the commentaries continues, and ends up bringing down the CPC regime as quickly as the Soviets fell 15 years ago, Canadians are bound, once again, to be caught completely by surprise.