The Chinese plan included disinformation campaigns and cash donations to friendly candidates.
New Delhi: The Canadian intelligence agency has revealed that Chinese agencies had interfered in the Canadian federal election held in September 2021 to ensure the return of the Justin Trudeau led Liberal government and defeat the Conservative politicians which are considered to be unfriendly to Beijing.
The said interference cost at least nine seats to the Conservatives, paving the way for the return of the incumbent government, with 10 fewer seats to the majority. Among those Conservative candidates who lost the election, as per the Canadian agencies, included Kenny Chiu, a Conservative who lost his seat of Steveston-Richmond East and MP from Richmond Centre, Alice Wong.
The Chinese plan included disinformation campaigns, cash donations to friendly candidates and arranging for business owners to hire Chinese international students, studying in Canada, as campaign volunteers to support preferred Liberal candidates.
These developments come in the backdrop of similar attempts being made in India in the run-up to the next year general elections as revealed by The Sunday Guardian earlier.
As per the findings of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Canadian intelligence agency, the Chinese government, as a larger part of this nefarious exercise, used three methods to control individuals in Canada for their benefits—cyber-attacks on targets’ computers, smartphones and hotel rooms to discover content that can be used for possible blackmailing, giving bribes to those who are in need or open to bribing and also employing sexual seduction to compromise a target. These three methods have been given three different codes by the Chinese intelligence: Blue, Gold and Yellow.
According to CSIS, this interference and recruitment campaign was shared with Canada’s Five Eyes intelligence allies: the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The CSIS reports were also shared with German, French, Dutch and Swedish spy services.
“In order to maintain the integrity of our operations, I cannot comment on CSIS’s operational matters, nor can I comment on matters related to India. There are important limits to what I can publicly discuss given the need to protect sensitive activities, techniques, methods, and sources of intelligence. These limitations are essential to ensure the safety, security, and prosperity of Canada,” Brandon Champagne, CSIS spokesperson said in response to The Sunday Guardian’s queries on whether the agency has come across attempts of Chinese interference in India’s elections during the course of the investigation.
Canadian Parliament is already probing a possible similar attempt that was made by the Chinese agencies to impact the 2019 polls which impacted 11 seats.As per the CSIS, those who were targeted by the Chinese entities included Canadian politicians, officials and business executives.
In an assessment report prepared by CSIS in January last year, after the Chinese agencies got a whiff of the CSIS being on their trail, they warned all their assets and compromised individuals to stop participating in the operation.
As a part of the operation, the Chinese consulates in Canada were asked to alert Beijing beforehand of prominent Canadian entities traveling to China.
Similarly, the Bank of China was asked to inform the same to officials in Beijing. Bank of China, incidentally, operates a branch in Mumbai.
The CSIS, in its investigation, found that in December 2021, Zhang Heng, who was China’s acting consul-general in Montreal for some time, instructed the consulate’s visa office to share the names of government officials, members of Parliament and business executives who were applying for visas. Specifically, China wanted the names of presidents and vice-presidents of large Canadian corporations and the presidents of small and medium-sized companies.
Zhang also got upset after he found out about “certain unspecified Canadians” who attended the November, 2021, CIIE trade fair from WeChat, the Chinese social-media application.The China International Import Expo is a trade fair held in autumn annually since 2018 in Shanghai, China.
In 2021, about 3,000 businesses from 127 countries and regions attended the event, which ran from 5-10November at Shanghai’s National Exhibition and Convention Centre.
The CSIS had informed Trudeau’s office about these damaging activities in February 2022. After the CSIS’s reports were broken by local newspaper, The Globe and Mail, the Canadian Prime Minister told the local media that “he expects the CSIS to find out who is leaking the secret reports”, while maintaining that Chinese interference operations did not affect the overall results of the 2019 and 2021 elections.