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Pedestrians walk in the Chinatown district of downtown Toronto, on Jan. 28, 2020.

CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

A Chinese diplomat is accusing Canadians who criticize Beijing’s new Hong Kong security law of trying to sow discord among people of Chinese origin in Canada.

Tong Xiaoling, China’s consul-general in Vancouver, told a Chinese-language radio program in Vancouver this week that pro-democracy activists in Canada who criticize the new security law enacted in Hong Kong are trying to foist their views on people who support Beijing’s move. Her interview was broadcast over Monday and Tuesday.

She said a “very few people, in both Hong Kong and local [Canada], have been maliciously denigrating and sabotaging Hong Kong’s national security legislation,” and she accused them of colluding with “anti-China forces” and trying to cause “trouble” overseas.

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Protests sow division among Vancouverites whose roots are either in Hong Kong or Mainland China

“Some people were trying to intimidate people who truly care about Hong Kong, stop them from voicing [their opinions] and launch personal attacks on them. [They] also try to create divisions in the ethnically Chinese community and sabotage China-Canada relations,” Ms. Tong said to Vancouver radio station 1320 AM, which bills itself as the “voice of Vancouver’s Chinese community.”

Ms. Tong proceeded to list various members of the Chinese community in Vancouver: those from Hong Kong, from Macau, from mainland China and the self-governing island of Taiwan.

Canadian activists for democracy in Hong Kong say that’s an unusual thing for a foreign government official to be concerned about. It’s not the Chinese government’s business to be actively concerned with the opinion of Canadians of Chinese origin, they say.

The Beijing-drafted national security law punishes what China broadly defines as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. Critics of the law fear it will crush the wide-ranging freedoms promised to the territory when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, including the right to protest and an independent legal system. Supporters of the law say it will bring stability after last year’s often-violent anti-government and anti-China unrest.

Vancouver has been home to a number of rallies against the new national security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong, including demonstrations outside Oakridge Centre and the local Chinese consulate.

Cherie Wong, executive director for Alliance Canada Hong Kong, an umbrella group for Hong Kong pro-democracy advocates in this country, said the Chinese government acts as though it has a proprietary claim on people of Chinese origin in Canada.

“Why would a foreign diplomat care about what the Chinese Canadian community thinks? It’s because the Chinese Communist Party feels a level of ownership over ethnically Chinese individuals,” Ms. Wong said.

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“The accusation that we are dividing Chinese people is in fact reinforcing the idea that we are a monolith, which is very much incorrect. It’s part of the same propaganda, erasing the differences in political opinions.”

Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to Beijing, said that in his opinion the Chinese government devotes a lot of resources to try to shape the opinions of ethnically Chinese communities in foreign countries in the hope of influencing public policy. “The message is repeated all the time: Don’t forget the Motherland.”

He said Ms. Tong’s comments reflect a more assertive brand of Chinese foreign policy. “She should be reminded that Canadians are Canadians: We don’t make a distinction between Canadians of Chinese origin and Canadians of British origin.”

Members of the House of Common’s special Canada-China committee, meanwhile, are meeting this week to consider holding hearings on the new Hong Kong security law.

“Conservatives proposed months ago for the Canada-China Committee to reconvene for intensive study of the horrific and deteriorating situation in Hong Kong. A lot of time has been lost in the interim, and it is all the more urgent now for us to hold intensive hearings on the situation in Hong Kong,” Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, a member of the committee, said.

Ms. Tong told 1320 AM that the national security bill was designed to bring calm to Hong Kong. Mass protests began in mid-2019 over proposed legislative changes that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. This civil disobedience later evolved into demands for greater democracy and autonomy.

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She blamed foreign governments and even the self-ruled island of Taiwan for encouraging this disobedience.

She also said she understands some overseas Chinese people have expressed concerns over the new law, worrying that it will violate Hong Kong people’s rights and freedoms, but blamed biased media reports and foreign politicians for their concerns.

She said the law will target only a tiny minority of people who sabotage Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and the national security.

“If you do not break such law, and aren’t involved in these activities, why do you need to worry about your safety?”

With a report from Reuters

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