Chinese Canadian leaders say journalist Sam Cooper did "not check his facts" about them

Senator Yuen Pau Woo and broadcaster Ding Guo made the comments after a panel discussion at Cooper's recent book launch

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      Two prominent Chinese Canadians in Vancouver said journalist Sam Cooper failed to verify his information before accusing them of lobbying for Beijing’s interests in their adopted country.

      Senator Yuen Pau Woo, who represents British Columbia, and Ding Guo, a leader in Vancouver’s Chinese community, were mentioned by Cooper during the global Zoom launch of his book, Wilful Blindness, on May 20. The book alleges that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has infiltrated Canada and other western countries through various networks that connect ethnic Chinese people including politicians, businesspeople, criminals, researchers, and journalists living outside China.

      Woo, who heads the non-partisan Independent Senators Group caucus, told this reporter that the Global News journalist and others who allege he serves Beijing’s interest should engage in a debate about his ideas instead of making dark accusations.

      Ding, an OMNI Television talk show host and leader of the Canada Committee 100 Society (CCS100) that focuses on Chinese-Canadian issues, said that Cooper did “not check his facts” and failed to provide details to support his accusations.

      Reading from an excerpt of his book published by Optimum Publishing International, Cooper alleged that “Omni TV columnist Mr. Ding leads a society active in lobbying” for Beijing’s interest in Canada.

      As an example, he said Ding invited “a pro-Beijing Canadian senator” to a May 2020 Zoom meeting to present a “not for circulation” insider’s analysis of the Canadian government’s response to the COVID-19 health crisis.

      The senator, according to Cooper, is Woo, who was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016. A Malaysian-born immigrant to Canada, Woo is a former president and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

      He recently wrote an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun that Cooper said “attacked the Chinese Canadian researcher Andy Yan who has been at the forefront of digging into… paid transfers from offshore and … global money, most specifically money from mainland China.”

      Cooper alleged that the senator launched “an attack on Mr. Yan who is a leading Canadian academic and analyst”.

      He also told the audience “the meaning of that attack, and the implication, and the motivation is something that we should discuss on this panel.”

      The panel, organized by publisher Dean Baxendale to support the book’s launch, included Teng Biao, a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer, Ivy Li, a core member of the Canadian Friends of Hong Kong, Canadian academic Charles Burton, and Benedict Rogers, who heads the UK Conservative Party’s Human Rights Committee.

      Woo to Cooper: Details and facts, please

      Woo’s main criticisms of Cooper’s allegations are that they lacked details and contained errors. He said the journalist did not contact him for comment during the writing of the book and before its launch.

      “He cites as an example of nefarious CCP-inspired activity a talk that I gave to the CCS100 in May 2020,” said the senator.

      “Apparently, the proof of my subversive talk was in its title: ‘The Canadian Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Health Crisis and the Politics of COVID-19’. He doesn’t explain what was subversive about my talk.”

      Woo said that Cooper was also wrong for stating that he had attacked Yan in his recent Vancouver Sun commentary.

      “My op-ed does not mention Mr. Yan by name and only targets his infamous 2015 study, which has been roundly criticized by many, and renounced by his erstwhile supporter David Eby. Sam Cooper does not say if he agrees with the 2015 study, but one gets the impression that he does.

      “More importantly, he doesn’t provide a rebuttal to the op-ed, which is about the reasons for the recent spike in anti-Asian racism in Vancouver.”

      Eby, British Columbia’s minister responsible for housing and attorney general in the ruling B.C. NDP provincial government, was the party’s housing critic when it was in opposition. He and Yan, an urban planning expert later hired by Simon Fraser University, jointly produced a study on 172 homes in an expensive Vancouver neighbourhood in November 2015.

      The study’s finding that 66 percent of those homes were bought by people with “non-Anglicized Chinese names” was seized upon by the media and activists as evidence that new immigrants of Chinese descent, as well as investors from China, were buying up Vancouver’s housing and causing an affordability crisis.

      Woo said: “Mr. Cooper intones darkly that it is ‘emblematic’ I have ‘stepped forward in recent weeks to launch an attack’. He then invites the panel to discuss ‘the meaning of that attack, the implication, and the motivation’.

      “Emblematic of what? My desire to identify the reasons for the spike in anti-Asian hate in Vancouver? If he doesn’t agree with my theory, why doesn’t he offer an alternative explanation?”

      Woo said Cooper’s references to ‘meaning’, ‘implication’, and ‘motivation’ are “an obvious insinuation that there is something sinister behind my op-ed—for which he provides zero evidence. It is classic vilification by innuendo, not to mention bad journalism.”

      He said Cooper and his supporters have “not engaged on the ideas that I put forward in my various speeches and publications. Their idea of a rebuttal seems to be to put labels on people they disagree with. I believe it is called ‘willful blindness’.”

      Amid rising tensions between China and the West, ethnic Chinese leaders in Canada and elsewhere are coming under increasing scrutiny for their political allegiance.

      David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, recently tweeted that Woo is “not subject to the discipline of a Party that actually has to listen to Canadians” and that he is “free to attack people who dare question your policies. Not a good look for a senator.”

      Woo said that Mulroney did not “like his views”, and was attempting to “shut him up”.

      Woo added that the former ambassador-turned-China critic could have responded with counter-arguments. Instead, the senator claimed he has been met with “hateful invective” from Mulroney’s followers.

      Ding: Cooper’s accusation revives memories of Cultural Revolution

      In an interview, Ding said that Cooper’s “false accusation” brought back memories of political persecution and suffering that he and his family endured during the Cultural Revolution in China.

      Between 1966 and 1976, China was shaken by leader Mao Zedong’s attempts to uproot “counter-revolutionaries”. Mao’s fanatical Red Guards arrested, jailed, tortured, and killed millions of innocent people by falsely accusing them of undermining China and working with hostile foreign forces.

      “My father was falsely accused, arrested, and tortured in 1966,” said Ding who was eight years old at that time.

      He said his family in Shanghai suffered greatly as they had to endure the suspicion of being traitors. His father was unemployed for a decade after being fired from his job as an accountant at a state-owned company.

      “Sam Cooper’s accusation reminds me of the Cultural Revolution,” he said. The veteran leader in Vancouver’s Chinese Canadian community said it is ironic that he is being subjected to a similar ordeal of wrongful accusation in a law-abiding and democratic country today.

      Like the Red Guards who had accused his father without evidence, Ding said Cooper did not provide any details or evidence of what he had done wrong.

      Ding received a strong statement of support from his employer, OMNI Television, a specialty channel owned by Rogers Sports & Media, a subsidiary of Rogers Communications. The company owns and operates all six of Canada’s conventional multicultural television stations.

      Rogers Communications is a rival of Corus Entertainment that owns Global News, the news and current affairs division of the Canadian Global Television Network. Cooper joined Global News in 2018 after working with the Vancouver Sun and the Province newspapers for several years.

      In a statement to this reporter, Rafi Mustafa, Director of OMNI News, said: “Guo Ding is a highly-respected journalist and community leader in B.C., and we are confident that he did not use his position to influence OMNI News editorial to drive any agenda or political interests from Beijing, nor are we convinced that any of his external activities violated Rogers’ conflict of interest policies.”

      Ding said his track record does not support Cooper’s narrative that he is a conduit for peddling Beijing’s views.

      In past broadcasts, Ding said he has called for the Chinese government to review its position on the killings of students and human rights protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen square on June 4, 1989. He suggested that he disagrees with Beijing’s decision to send in soldiers to shoot the protestors, killing hundreds.

      Last July, Ding commissioned a CCS100 survey of Chinese Canadians showing that 53 percent of the respondents do not trust the Chinese government to act fairly in a dispute with Canada. 

      If he was trying to sell Canadians a favourable opinion of the CCP, the publication of the survey did not support that objective, he said.

      Ding also supports Canada’s efforts to admit Hong Kong immigrants seeking to escape China’s increasingly oppressive rule. Beijing has reacted angrily to Ottawa’s plan to grant asylum to pro-democracy protestors from Hong Kong, billing them as “violent criminals".

      Ding left China to study in Japan in 1984 before immigrating to Canada in 1988.

      “Canada is a law-abiding, democratic country. We open the doors to people from other countries fleeing oppression. I believe in this country, it is why I fight for Canada,” he said.

      Ng Weng Hoong is a Vancouver journalist with more than 30 years of experience covering the energy industry in Asia and the Middle East. This article originally appeared on the OnePacificNews website. The Georgia Straight publishes articles like this to encourage constructive debate on important issues.