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ABC Vancouver campaign got support from heads of pro-Beijing group

Past, present and future heads of various China-affiliated groups donated to the party's election efforts
Ye Hongtao of the Canada China Cultural Communication Association and Mayor Ken Sim at the Nov. 7 Orpheum Theatre swearing-in for the new Vancouver city council

ABC Vancouver’s campaign received donations from past, present and future leaders of an organization that describes itself as an ally of China’s government. 

Elections BC disclosures show a $1,500 donation from Wei Renmin, the South Surrey resident who was executive chair of the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations (CACA) from 2020 to 2022. 

One of his predecessors, Shaughnessy’s Miaofei Pan, and his successor, Richmond’s Kady Xue Xiaomei, donated $1,250 and $600, respectively, to Ken Sim’s winning bid to replace Kennedy Stewart as mayor of Vancouver. Pan famously hosted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a private fundraiser at one of his mansions in 2016.

CACA is the Richmond-based umbrella organization for more than 100 business and cultural groups. The CACA website states that it is in active participant in the activities of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO), the arm of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) United Front program that aims to influence foreign politicians in favour of the Chinese government.

In 2018, Sim narrowly lost to Stewart by just 957 votes. But, last Oct. 15, Sim won by a 36,000-vote margin and his ABC party took supermajorities on city council and park board. Sim unofficially launched his campaign in October 2021 with members of CACA and People’s Republic of China consular officials at an event promoting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.  

The difference in 2022 may have been then-consul general Tong Xiaoling. On Thursday, The Globe and Mail quoted from a leaked January 2022 report by Canada’s spy agency that said Tong was working to help elect a Chinese-Canadian candidate. Tong, who ended her five-year posting last July, was also quoted in another leaked Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) report about interfering in the 2021 federal election in favour of the Liberal Party.

Stewart was at odds with Tong for announcing a boycott of meetings with Chinese officials in April 2021 due to China sanctioning his friend, Conservative MP Michael Chong. Chong was among the 266 parliamentarians who voted to condemn China for genocide against Uyghur Muslims. Stewart also raised the ire of Tong when he spoke out in favour of stronger trade and diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Last June, Stewart admitted he met with CSIS officers who warned him the Chinese government and its proxies would meddle in the election. ABC politicians originally criticized Stewart, but Sim said in the final week of the campaign that he had contacted CSIS in June.

Taylor Verrall was director of communications for ABC’s campaign and is now the spokesperson for Sim’s office. He did not respond for comment. However, during a funding announcement for flood protection and water quality on Thursday afternoon, Sim scoffed at the suggestion Chinese government interference put him in power. 

“If there is proof of this, I'd be as mad as hell as everyone else. But right now, there are a bunch of insinuations, and it's actually quite hurtful,” Sim told reporters.

The Chinese consulate in Vancouver reiterated its denial and accused Canada of interfering in China’s domestic affairs. 

“China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and has never interfered in any Canadian elections and has not interested in to do so,” read the statement on the consulate website.

In its Elections BC filings, ABC also disclosed a donation from the founder of an unregistered third party that promoted ethnic Chinese candidates on Chinese-language websites and social media.

Kong Qincun of the Chinese Canadian Society for Political Engagement (CCSPE), which operates at a clubhouse in a former Domino’s Pizza on Dunbar, gave ABC $1,250. CCSPE displayed an ABC campaign sign in the window of the building, which is assessed at $3 million and owned by a numbered company that counts 10 interest holders, two of whom are citizens of Xian, China. Last July, CCSPE hosted Toronto-area Liberal MP Han Dong, who was elected in 2019 and is suspected by CSIS of being favoured by the Chinese consulate in Toronto. 

The meeting included Richter Bai Jiping, the owner of Phantom Creek Estates winery in Oliver and donor of $1,250 to ABC. His name also appeared on the guest list for the Nov. 7 city council swearing-in at the Orpheum Theatre. 

Dorothee Xing, spokesperson for Bai, declined an interview request about his political activities. 

“Mr. Bai wishes not to be included in any media interviews at this time,” Xing said. 

Tong’s successor, Yang Shu, and the Vancouver consulate’s director of OCAO, Chen Qingjie, were on the ABC’s Orpheum guest list, along with executives from CACA, Wenzhou Friendship Society, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Chinese Benevolent Association, Canadian Chinese Women’s Federation, Guangdong Association of Canada, and North America Commerce Valley Development Ltd. 

The latter is the developer of the Vancouver Logistics Park in Surrey’s Campbell Heights, an import-export warehouse project connected to Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road global logistics and infrastructure initiative. 

At the Orpheum, Sim stopped for a selfie with Ye Hongtao, director of the Canada China Cultural Communication Association and a participant in the August 2019 pro-CCP protests in Vancouver. 

This story was updated March 17 to include additional comments from Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim and the Chinese consulate in Vancouver.