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Diaspora Groups Testify About Intimidation and Harassment by Home Countries at Canada’s Foreign Interference Hearings

Canada’s Foreign Interference Commission inquiry has recently entered the witness testimony phase. Representatives from diaspora communities originating from China, India, Russia, and Iran testified about their experiences of intimidation and coercion by their countries of origin.

Witnesses representing Canadian diaspora communities included Uyghur rights activist Mehmet Tohti, Winnie Ng from the Toronto Association for Democracy in China, Grace Dai Wollensak from the Falun Dafa Association of Canada, Jaskaran Sandhu from the Indian Sikh Alliance, Yuriy Novodvorskiy from the Russian-Canadian Democratic Solidarity group, and Iranian-Canadian Hamed Esmailion. Each recounted their personal experiences of harassment and threats from their home countries.

Long-time human rights activist Tohti said he has been unable to see his family since arriving in Canada in 1991. Initially, China denied him and his family permission to travel. In 2016, over 30 of his relatives were detained, severing all contact with Tohti. In early 2023, Chinese police called to say that his mother and two sisters had died, his brother was missing, and that an uncle had been hospitalized — these were threats that he should stop his activism lest more relatives face the same fate.

Wollensak broke down as she spoke about the plight of Falun Gong practitioners. She revealed that they have endured persecution by the Chinese government for over two decades, not only within China but also through the authorities’ transnational crackdown abroad. She added that Falun Gong practitioners living overseas are constantly subjected to intimidation, harassment, cyberattacks, and surveillance. “My account has been deleted, and my IP address has been blocked,” she said, “We are not allowed to express anything that contradicts the CCP’s policies. The ’50-cent party’ and the United Front agents are able to interfere with our lives on a daily basis.”

The witnesses noted the US takes far stronger action against foreign interference [than Canada does], levying charges and convictions. Meanwhile, Canada lacks even a foreign agents registry, leaving complaints unaddressed.

The hearings were sparked by Beijing’s alleged interference in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian elections. Federal Judge Marie-Josée Hogue will hear dozens of further witnesses, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Source: Radio Free Asia, March 28, 2024