In the wake of a Chinese election advertisement targeting Richmond South Centre NDP candidate Chak Au, CBC asked me why these kinds of dirty tricks could only be found in the Chinese community.
My answer is simple: it is because they work. It may not affect the majority of Chinese voters but in ridings where the race is neck-and-neck, they could reverse the result.
Let’s take a look at real examples in the past three provincial elections.
In 2005, in the last day of the election campaign, Liberal Burnaby-Willingdon B.C. Liberal John Nuraney ran an advertisement in Chinese daily newspapers that said the NDP “supports implementing an inheritance tax; people pass away will be taxed” and the NDP is “not welcoming foreign investors”.
Since it was on the eve of the election, Nuraney’s opponent did not have a chance to rebut it. The NDP candidate, Gabriel Yiu (i.e. this writer), was defeated by 399 votes.
In 2009, residents of Vancouver-Fraserview received an anonymous pamphlet that said the NDP will “legalize drugs” and implement an inheritance tax. The pamphlet also stated “your lifetime earnings will be taken away by the NDP, cannot leave wealth to your children… will tax you to death, even those who passed away won’t be able to escape, it is like whipping the corpse.” Chinese voters in the riding also received a robocall with a Cantonese message that said the NDP will implement an inheritance tax.
The NDP candidate, Gabriel Yiu (i.e. this writer), was defeated by 748 votes.
After the election, Elections B.C. asked the RCMP to investigate the anonymous pamphlets. The result was that the Liberal MLA, Kash Heed, had to step down from his position as the solicitor general.
The court ruled that there was a violation of the Election Act; light penalties were issued and Heed was able to keep his seat.
It is worth noting that both the inheritance tax and the legalization of drugs did not fall within provincial jurisdiction.
In the 2013 election, in the final week of the election campaign, a third-party advertiser ran advertisements in Chinese dailies and distributed Chinese-language pamphlets in the community smearing the NDP. They said the NDP would “support comprehensively legalizing marijuana, so children could publicly buy it at school.” The ad urged voters to “Vote for the B.C. Liberal party!”
In that election, the Liberal party’s fortunes turned around, and the premier, Christy Clark, later credited this success to the Chinese vote.
During that election, the Chinese radio station CHMB's morning news commentary show criticized the Vancouver-Fraserview NDP candidate, Gabriel Yiu (i.e. this writer), on 12 mornings. The most unusual thing is, on the eve of the election, the hosts on this show did not talk about party leaders, election issues, or other Chinese candidates.
The only subject they talked about and criticized in their half-hour show was the NDP candidate in Vancouver-Fraserview. Right before the advertising break, one host said they had received permission to run their show past the 9 o’clock news time. The NDP candidate fell short by 470 votes in the election.
The CEO of Mainstream Broadcasting Corporation, which owns CHMB AM1320, was Teresa Wat, the Liberal candidate for Richmond Centre. Her opponents were also the target of dirty tricks.
Gary Law, who was an RCMP officer, claimed he was threatened after he decided to seek a B.C. Liberal nomination in Richmond Centre. He filed a report to the police.
Wat’s NDP opponent, Frank Huang, was publicly criticized for his past membership of the Chinese Communist Party. (Huang was a provincial government bureaucrat in China and it’s a common practice for bureaucrats to join the Communist Party.)
The person who brought up Huang’s past was Dr. Kenneth Fung, a known Liberal supporter, who claimed that Huang could be a security threat if elected. Fung was later exposed for using a false name in a CKNW call-in show when alleging that Huang “can’t really communicate in English” and urging the English media to interview him.
It did not matter that what Fung said is untrue or that a former MLA, Paul Reitsma, was forced to resign after having been caught using a false name in signing letters to the media.
Wat won the election and was appointed a cabinet minister while Fung was appointed to the board of the University of British Columbia.
All the above ridings have high concentrations of Chinese Canadian voters. These cases illustrate that dirty tricks did work in the Chinese community. So it is no surprise that they pop up again.
Unless Chinese voters and the community condemn and punish political parties and their candidates that are related to or benefit from these dirty tricks, they will not stop.