Yuen Pau Woo worries about rising anti-Asian racism
OTTAWA – Last June, 33 Canadian senators voted against a motion denouncing China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims as genocide.
While they have all been the subject of criticism from some, only one – Senator Yuen Pau Woo, leader of the Group of Independent Senators – appears to have been named as an alleged Chinese Communist Regime puppet, to whom he was asked to resign and “go home”. “
Last week, Woo had a similar reaction when he tweeted about the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, the two Canadians arbitrarily detained by China for nearly three years in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States.
Woo tweeted that it was a “happy day” for the families of the Canadian men who became known around the world as the “Two Michaels” and for Meng, who was simultaneously released and allowed to return to China. He urged Canadians to reflect on the lessons learned from the case.
He attached a link to an editorial in the Toronto Star that quoted former US Ambassador Chas Freeman as saying that “the US, aided by Canada, took Meng hostage in the first place as part of the their business and their technology. war with China. “
This earned Woo a scathing rebuke from Chris Alexander, a former diplomat and former immigration minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
“By claiming that Meng has been ‘taken hostage’, @yuenpauwoo has violated his oath as a Canadian senator and should resign,” Alexander tweeted.
“Foreign propaganda spokespersons should have no place in the Canadian Parliament,” he added.
Alexander’s tweet was shared by others who called Woo a “pond scum” and a “Chinese f —” who should be “sent back to China with Meng.”
China has maintained from the start that Meng’s arrest was politically motivated. Canada and the United States vigorously denied it, but many American and Canadian experts nonetheless share Freeman’s view that she was a political bargaining chip.
This view was fueled by former US President Donald Trump, who was trying to negotiate a trade deal with China at the time of Meng’s arrest and who said he would intervene in his extradition case “if I think it’s good for what will be the biggest trade deal ever. “
John Manley, a former Liberal deputy prime minister and Canadian foreign minister, said at the time that Trump’s comments “gave Ms Meng’s lawyers a good reason to go to court and say, ‘This is no it is not a question of extradition. is actually leverage in a trade dispute and it has nothing to do with Canada. “
Woo notes that Manley and others who echoed similar views have not been denounced as spokespersons for China.
It is a special kind of stigma, he believes, intended to stigmatize people of Chinese descent and he worries about where the rising tide of anti-Asian sentiment in Canada might lead.
“I’m Exhibit A, if you will, just because I have a bit of a public profile,” Woo said in an interview.
“But there are many others in the community who do not have my protections and who really fear the growing transposition and stigma that is occurring.”
Woo was actually born in Malaysia and raised in Singapore before coming to Canada at the age of 16.
He has been accused of shamelessly being a “friend of Beijing”, spokesperson and lobbyist for the Chinese Communist Party, even though he points out that he is “three generations away from the mainland (China)”.
He fears that recent immigrants from China, who still have ties to their families there, will be considered even more suspicious and less able to defend themselves.
Woo points to reports suggesting Chinese Canadians may have been influenced by China or acted on Chinese orders when they voted in the federal election last month, leading to the defeat of several incumbent Tory MPs who advocated an uncompromising stance against Beijing.
“This is really a defamatory and dangerous way of thinking because it makes assumptions about Chinese Canadians Çª who have views that may not be dominant (and) it assumes that they are not able to think by. themselves, “he said.
“The accusation that they are foreign agents or cronies of the Chinese government is a very, very serious allegation and, of course, recalls the days of McCarthyism when careers were ruined and lives were lost and we must be very careful not to return to this place. “
One of those defeated Conservative MPs, Kenny Chiu, who lost his riding in British Columbia to a Liberal in the September 20 election, told The Canadian Press that during the campaign there were messages on WeChat which he said contained false information about the Tories and allegations by an MP. the bill he introduced would discriminate against Chinese Canadians. But he also said his party could have done a better job speaking directly to members of that community.
When Woo spoke out against the motion calling China’s treatment of Uyghurs genocide last June, he argued that Canada, given its history of forcing indigenous children to attend residential schools, should not try. to lecture China from a position of moral superiority over human rights.
On the contrary, he said, Canada should call on its Chinese “friends” not to make the same morally reprehensible and socially damaging mistake in trying to suppress and forcibly assimilate a minority group.
Senator Peter Harder, the former government representative in the Senate who now sits with the Progressive Senate Group, made a similar point.
Senator Peter Boehm, a former senior global affairs official and sherpa of prime ministers at G7 summits, argued that the “few paragraphs of the motion on what passes for megaphone diplomacy” would accomplish nothing, if this is to anger China and possibly hinder attempts to win the exit of Kovrig and Spavor.
Boehm, a member of the Independent Senators Group, said in an interview that he and Harder had received “some hard knocks” for their speeches, including from his former colleague, Alexander.
Alexander could not be reached for comment in time for the post.
“What I got was ‘You’re an experienced diplomat, you should know better, shame on you.’ That’s basically what I was getting from Chris Alexander and others who see themselves as experts, ”Boehm said.
But unlike Woo, he said, “No one has tweeted or commented that I should go back to China.”
Boehm agrees with Woo that “there is a correlation here to the rise of anti-Asian racism in Canada and some of that permeates what or what various Canadians who should know better put on their media feeds. social.
“I think it’s unfair and humiliating.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 3, 2021.