MEDIA BIAS, Part 2: Canada’s Sinophobia in the time of Xi Jinpingadmin June 16, 2020 0 COMMENTS
By Ng Weng Hoong, OnePacificNews, June 15, 2020, Monday
This is the final part of a two-part series examining the bias of the Canadian mainstream media in refusing to recognise the complaints of Chinese Canadians that Global News had published a false and misleading story with implications for the diaspora and the country’s race relations. Part 1 is here.
Systemic racism has suddenly become a universal issue, ignited by the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in the United States.
In just over a week, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest exploded into a global movement. While it has eclipsed the campaign against anti-Chinese and anti-Asian racism from the COVID-19 pandemic, BLM’s elevation has expanded the platform for people fighting discrimination and institutional bias.
Canada’s Chinese communities will need that platform as they face a new strain of Sinophobia that has become globalised and increasingly normalised. The struggle against anti-Chinese racism is being complicated — and compromised — by the geopolitics of the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
For sure, the pandemic and US President Donald Trump have awakened long-held prejudices against ethnic Chinese people that have laid low in the West and elsewhere for decades.
But it is Xi Jinping, seven years as China’s president and counting, who deserves the most credit for today’s red-hot conditions for Sinophobia. His government has overseen an alarming breakdown in his country’s relations with the West. The China brand is also damaged in many developing countries that once adored and trusted Beijing. Increasingly, the Chinese diaspora of some 60 to 70 million around the world will likely bear the brunt of rising anti-Beijing sentiments.
I mentioned this to a group of Chinese Canadians during a recent Zoom meeting organised by the newly-established Maple Leafs Anti-Racism Actions Association (MLARA). I was asked about my observation that Sinophobia — the distrust, contempt, and hate for ethnic Chinese people, regardless of their political or cultural affiliations — today is at an unprecedented level.
My comments caused an uproar.
“You scared a few of the participants shitless,” one of the Zoom participants wrote me after the meeting.
“There were some diehard Xi supporters on the call and they were furious. Then there were others who was (sic) afraid…to be associated with you.”
Someone criticised my so-called anti-China and anti-Chinese disposition. Another person complained that I had joined in the victim-blaming of the diaspora that is already under siege. There were probably a few Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sympathisers in the audience.
As with during the rule of PRC’s founding leader Mao Zedong, the defenders of today’s regime equate any criticism of the CCP to being “anti-China” and “anti-Chinese”. To them, the CCP is the essence of Chinese purity that cannot be defiled by questions, much less criticisms.
On the opposite end are those who think any complaints about Sinophobia and anti-Chinese discrimination is the work of the CCP to thwart legitimate investigation into foreign influence in Canada.
Canada’s mainstream media favour Global News
This appears to be the stance taken by Canada’s mainstream media as they gave prominence to Global News’s defence of the April 30 story by its star reporter Sam Cooper. Touted as an exclusive piece of investigative journalism, “United Front groups in Canada helped Beijing stockpile coronavirus safety supplies”, is a fine example in sensational storytelling built on a mix of facts, assumptions, errors and conjecture to sell the dangerous storyline that every Chinese Canadian is a potential CCP agent. The vast majority of Chinese Canadians have no ties with the CCP nor the interest to assist its mission. But you won’t have that impression after reading Mr Cooper’s action-packed thriller about how the CCP supposedly runs Canada’s mindless Chinese bots.
While the CCP threat to Canada is real, the threat of Sinophobia and fearmongering against Chinese Canadians is probably worse. Many Chinese Canadians are among the fiercest critics and opponents of the CCP. It is ridiculous to associate them with running a communist plot to undermine Canada.
Still, MLARA and the protestors struggle to be heard by Canada’s top politicians and the media.
This is due mostly to China’s rising unpopularity in Canada and around the world today. Anti-China sentiments are drowning out the real threat of Sinophobia faced by people of Chinese descent and appearance. This will be the subject of another analysis.
Another contributing factor is the lack of Asian and Chinese-knowledgeable journalists in the Canadian newsroom. Diversity is not taken seriously in the North American media, especially in Canada, where the establishment views it as politically correct fad best managed by the appointment of the token Asian or Chinese reporter.
MLARA’s inexperience and naivety also played a role in the muddling of its own protest. The Zoom meeting of May 19 was a case in point.
Told that this would be a closed-door meeting, several participants, including me, were shocked to see it reported on The Breakers News on May 24. The shock was even greater when we learned that it was not the result of a leak by an insider. Rather, the organiser had made the bizarre decision to open up the meeting to the world without the knowledge and consent of some, if not, most of us.
The meeting’s agenda was also miscommunicated. As far as I was concerned, we were to discuss the rising trend of anti-Chinese racism in Vancouver and the Global News story. I was asked to share my experience with Sinophobia in Southeast Asia as it could be useful for Chinese Canadians facing this new ugly reality. I was not told there would be a discussion to raise funds for a proposed law suit against Global News, even though it was later reported as such.
MLARA’s credibility took another hit when one of its supporters was found soliciting funds through a Federal government minister’s Chinese social media channel to support the proposed lawsuit. The supporter had used the WeChat network of Minister of Digital Government Joyce Murray. Incredulously, the supporter thought it a great idea that, of course, boomeranged on MLARA.
The story was picked up by the national media mostly because it had embarrassed the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The association had to issue a statement expressing “regret” that the “action of one of our supporters had caused difficulties for minister Joyce Murray and the Prime Minister.”
I mention MLARA’s mistakes not for the purpose of embarrassing its members, but to provide food for thought to anyone suspecting it of being a CCP front. We also have to question the assumption that the CCP is necessarily the super-efficient organisation operating military-level clandestine operations depicted of the enemy in spy novels. More often than not, its activities will be picked up by someone in Canada’s Chinese communities who will blow the whistle.
But there was a silver lining to the debacle when the association’s cause finally received national media coverage.
It allowed MLARA spokesman Jason Xie to declare to the StarVancouver that its actions were not dictated by the PRC government and the CCP.
“We live in Canada,” he said. “We want nothing to do with whatever a foreign country may have done.”
Mr Xie said the Global News story was “misleading and irresponsible” and “sows hatred and mistrust among our community.”
He called out Global News’s blundering use of a Chinese-language Xinhua-linked story, which states “Every overseas Chinese is a warrior against the pandemic” (战“疫”者, or “pandemic fighter”). Instead, Global News mistranslated it as “Every overseas Chinese is a warrior”. That became the headline for the section about the purported CCP operation buying up masks and other equipment in Canada and elsewhere for export to China. Basically, it was used to sell the conspiracy that the CCP controls “every overseas Chinese” to serve the PRC government.
The CBC cited MLARA’s complaint that the Global News’s “portrayal of the Chinese-Canadian community is inaccurate, unbalanced, and was written to intentionally cause harm to the character of the Chinese-Canadian community.”
The Globe and Mail mentioned the association’s members “are exploring the feasibility of mounting a class action lawsuit against Mr Sam Cooper and Global News for the inaccurate and unbalanced reporting that targets a specific minority group.
“Our aim is to demand an apology from Mr. Sam Cooper and Global News to the Canadian-Chinese community as well as compensation for damages.”
Robert Fife and Steven Chase, the Globe and Mail’s heavyweight reporters, did not mention the protestors’ complaint about Mr Cooper’s reporting errors nor his broadbrushing of Chinese Canadians as CCP warriors.
Instead, they focused on the MLARA supporter’s misguided WeChat fund-raising campaign.
They chose to quote Conservative MP Peter Kent who reflected the establishment view:
“The United Front is a very skilled espionage tool of the Chinese government and here is a case where it is fundraising on a Liberal minister’s WeChat group to intimidate a Canadian investigative journalist.”
Did Mr Kent read the MLARA statement, my protest letters, and the petition launched by Xiaobei Chen, a sociology professor at Carleton University? Did he attempt to learn about Mr Cooper’s sloppy, alarmist reporting before concluding that this was a United Front job to shut down investigative journalism?
The same can be asked of Ms Murray and her spokesperson, Sarah McMaster, who assumed that this was an attack on “the integrity of hard-working journalists”.
Even Prime Minister Trudeau went along with the popular opinion.
Questioned in Parliament about the WeChat posting, he almost parroted Ms McMaster’s line: “Attacking the integrity of hard-working journalists is absolutely unacceptable.”
No one in the political or media establishment thought to ask about the complaints against Mr Cooper’s fearmongering against Chinese Canadians or Global News’s decision to support the faulty assumptions and errors in his reporting.
Global News went on to portray the protests as an attempt to stop investigative journalism in Canada:
“We are increasingly concerned by what appears to be an organized effort to discredit our journalist, our reporting and our news division as we investigate the serious issue of foreign influence in Canadian affairs.”
Global News could not be more wrong.
There is no “organized effort to discredit” Mr Cooper or Global News. Rather, Global News has already discredited him and itself by publishing a false, error-laden story that Chinese Canadians are “warriors” for the CCP.
MLARA, Ms Chen and I, perhaps speaking for Chinese Canadians with no ties to the CCP, are merely demanding that Global News apologise for Mr Cooper’s misreporting and to retract part, if not all, of the story.
Global News must realise that it has laid the foundation for a long-term story that threatens the safety and security of every Chinese Canadian. Already, Chinese Canadians, especially recent immigrants, have become the punching bag for the country’s recent problems with housing affordability, casino money laundering, drugs and crime. This was achieved through years of unchallenged distorted reporting by Canada’s mainstream media.
Mr Cooper’s story has now expanded Chinese Canadian villainy by raising doubts about their loyalty to this country.
Left unchallenged, it will encourage other reporters to develop the narrative that Chinese Canadians are potential traitors to this country.
This is an example of systemic racism, and it must be stopped here and now.