Conservative MP Michael Chong — the target of an alleged foreign interference campaign by China — is telling his story this morning from a rare podium: Capitol Hill in Washington.
The Canadian politician was invited before U.S. lawmakers to discuss China’s “transnational repression” in front of a bipartisan commission studying the issue.
Entering the meeting, Chong told reporters he had two goals: to share stories — his and others’ — and to talk about possible policy solutions, including potential foreign-interference legislation and a new registry of foreign agents in Canada, like those that already exist in the U.S. and Australia.
“Foreign interference is a serious national-security threat to Canada,” Chong told the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which is made up of Democrats and Republicans from the House of Representatives, the Senate and presidential appointees.
“It threatens our economy, our long-term prosperity, our social cohesion, our Parliament and our elections.”
Chong described how a political campaign against him began after he started speaking out against Canada using of Huawei technology and condemned Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghurs minorities, calling it a genocide.
Chong learned earlier this year that Chinese officials were gathering details about his relatives in China. He said he was also threatened and deluged with a co-ordinated campaign of denigration on social media.
When a congressman asked Chong whether the Canadian government was supporting him, he replied that things have been better since the spring, when he had criticized the Trudeau government for failing to inform him of intelligence regarding the alleged targeting of his family.
“Yes, they have been supportive of me in recent months,” Chong said.
Before his appearance Tuesday, Chong met with Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman. He said she, too, was supportive — and did not attempt to set any boundaries about what he should or shouldn’t say on foreign soil.
The Republican chair of the commission, Rep. Chris Smith, of New Jersey, described the alleged Chinese treatment of Chong as “unacceptable and outrageous.”
“As a fellow legislator, my colleagues and I are appalled,” Smith said to Chong before he began speaking. “We welcome you. Please consume how much time you like.”
The context for Tuesday’s hearing is an effort by some lawmakers to get a bill passed targeting transnational repression in the U.S. Democratic co-chair Sen. Jeff Merkley talked about the bill during the hearing.
During his time, Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, of Alaska, cited recent cases of high-profile Chinese officials going missing, including a former foreign minister.
Sullivan told Chong he was grateful to see him speaking up against Beijing. “I just want to let you know how much we admire and appreciate it,” he said.
The hearing unfolded on a busy day in Washington, as U.S. lawmakers return from their summer break. They are struggling to pass a budget and avert a government shutdown, while Republicans are grappling with internal divisions over funding for Ukraine and whether to open an impeachment investigation into U.S. President Joe Biden’s family business dealings.
Other witnesses speaking before the committee Tuesday are Uyghur-American activist Rushan Abbas, whose sister, a retired medical doctor, was arrested and remains detained in Xinjiang, and Laura Harth, whose group Safeguard Defenders has chronicled the presence of so-called Chinese police stations in numerous countries, including Canada.