The future of a panel set up to advise the B.C. government on issues important to the Chinese-Canadian community has been thrown into question after one former member said on a radio show that Canada’s condemnation of China’s treatment of its Muslim minority is based on lies.
George Chow, B.C.’s Minister of State for Trade, said in a statement that the terms of the panel members, including that of Bill Yee, who made the controversial comments, expired in February. Mr. Yee is not seeking reappointment.
Mr. Chow’s office would not comment on Friday about whether new members would be appointed to the panel. The Premier’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
In an interview with Ontario-based A1 Chinese radio, which was broadcast on March 30, Mr. Yee, a retired B.C. Provincial Court judge, said a declaration from Canada’s Parliament that recognizes China’s actions against the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang as genocide is not based on fact.
China has been accused of using mass incarceration, destruction of religious sites, forced labour, forced sterilization and other forms of population control, as well as torture.
Mr. Yee said on the show, on which he was introduced as a member of the advisory group, that some Canadian politicians have an “ulterior motive.”
“I think what they said about genocide and human rights etc. problems in Tibet are completely made up. We all know that these politicians don’t even know where Xinjiang is. That’s why all these talks about genocide are completely not factual,” Mr. Yee said.
He added that China’s Uyghur Muslim population has been increasing, as has the life span in Xinjiang. People like him who’ve been to the region know that people’s lives there are getting better and better, he said.
“They use these lies, and those politicians, what kind of legal base can prove China has committed genocide, those actions, those policies? None. That doesn’t make sense at all,” Mr. Yee said.
When asked whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should sanction four Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Mr. Yee answered: “Of course, [he] shouldn’t.”
Mr. Yee is also on the board of directors for the Chinese Canadian Museum. The museum said on Thursday that it would pass on a request for comment from Mr. Yee, who did not respond.
Members of the Uyghur community in Vancouver said they are “very angry” about the comments.
“There are a lot of researchers and a lot of scholars, a lot of testimonies he can find under the Parliament website. And he didn’t accept the reality,” said Turnisa Matsedik-Qira of the Vancouver Uyghur Association
Mr. Yee’s remarks also prompted a group of prominent Chinese-Canadians in B.C. to write a letter to Premier John Horgan this week demanding Mr. Yee be removed from the committee. After learning that Mr. Yee is no longer on the panel, the group questioned why Mr. Yee allowed himself to be introduced in the interview as the co-chair of the committee.
“Mr. Yee’s remarks or comments do not represent, first of all, the Canadian core values; secondly, that does not represent mainstream opinion in the Chinese community of Canada,” said Victor Ho, a member of the group and the former editor-in-chief of the Sing Tao Daily newspaper in B.C.
The group is also asking the Chinese Canadian Museum to remove Mr. Yee from the board.
“Anyone who endorses suppression of citizens and minorities and is keen on rewriting history for a foreign nation has no place in directing this government funded museum,” the group said in a statement on Friday.
The advisory committee was formed in 2018 to advise the Premier on government initiatives of interest and concern to the Chinese-Canadian community in B.C. It also proposes projects aimed at highlighting the contributions of the community. The committee members are unpaid volunteers.
Ging Guo, TV commentator and a former member of the committee, said the group plays an important role in bringing voices from the Chinese community to B.C.’s policy-making process.
He said the community had very little input because of many members’ reluctance to participate in politics, and due to language barriers and systemic racism.
The panel provides “a direct channel for the Premier to hear [their voices].”
Earlier this week, Mr. Chow had told CBC that future appointees to the committee would be interviewed for their opinions. However, the minister refused to explain to The Globe and Mail what that meant, and his office declined to comment further.
Mr. Ho said the Premier should keep his distance from those who hold pro-Beijing views, because they don’t comply with Canadian values.
“We cannot accept [someone] as an advisory community member with the same ideas of the authoritarian regime in China.”
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