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CCP Hires a Canadian Lobbyist Firm to Promote Its Viewpoints

The South China Morning Post reported that Beijing has hired a Canadian lobbyist firm and that the staff members of that firm have been promoting the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) viewpoint without identifying their association with Beijing.

The Chinese Consulate-General in Toronto hired Solstice Public Affairs as its lobbyist last August. This hiring is special because it is the first federal lobbyist that China has engaged. “No other country appears to have engaged a private firm to provide such services in Canada. Diplomats typically undertake such services.”

Karen Woods (whose Chinese name is Wen Lin), a Senior Associate at Solstice, is also a co-founder of the Canadian Chinese Political Affairs Committee (CCPAC). Since the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, she has been appearing on TV and publishing lengthy pieces in Canadian newspapers.

Her 750-word opinion piece on The Toronto Star on December 18, 2018, stated, “[The] Huawei case has generated a dark cloud which is shrouding the psyche of many Chinese-Canadians.” She warned of a “new wave of ‘Sino-phobia,’” and grimly concluded that “in a West rebuilt on Cold War ideologies and McCarthyism, there is likely to be little space for Chinese-Canadians.”

In February 2019, Karen Woods and three other representatives of her CCPAC published another Huawei-themed op-ed in the National Post and associated publications, as an open letter to “Uncle Xi” Jinping. It contended that Chinese President Xi’s anger at Meng’s arrest was understandable but misplaced, and that if China wanted to “win over the hearts and minds of the West,” it should release Canadian detainees Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who are widely believed to have been arrested in retaliation.

Some people have pointed out that Wood’s views represented those of the CCP. However, she did not disclose her lobbying firm’s connection to Beijing when she published those articles.

The South China Morning Post believed that the “behavior of Solstice and its staff blurred the lines between outright lobbying, journalism, and private activism. In ways both crude and subtle, they have attacked critics and propelled viewpoints that often uphold Beijing’s talking points and interests on a range of subjects.”

Solstice hired Woods partly on the strength of her Chinese community activism, said Brockwell, a veteran political lobbyist who is Woods’ senior at Solstice. Woods and Brockwell have appeared together at Chinese consular functions in Toronto, including the welcoming ceremony for the new Consul-General, Han Tao, last August.

During his interview with the South China Morning Post, Brockwell said repeatedly, and in multiple contexts, that Karen Woods did indeed work for the Chinese consulate, although her op-ed articles were not part of that work. He acknowledged that articles that the Solstice staff wrote in their private capacities served simultaneously as “client development.”

Source: South China Morning Post, April 18, 2019