MP Jenny Kwan received ‘cold treatment’ at opening ceremony despite being local representative and having advocated for funding
By Andrew Chen, Kathy Han
A human rights group is raising concerns about the Canadian government-funded Chinese Canadian Museum as it opens to the public this month, citing anomalies during the opening ceremony and some board members’ outspoken support of the Chinese communist regime.
The opening ceremony was held at the museum, housed in the historic Wing Sang Building in Vancouver’s Chinatown, on July 1. Dozens of politicians from all three levels of government were invited, including British Columbia Premier David Eby, Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim, and Mary Ng, the federal minister of international trade, export promotion, small business, and economic development.
Irregularities during the event included the seating arrangement, choice of keynote speakers, and guests invited to the museum’s plaque unveiling, appearing to indicate that critics of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) aren’t welcomed, said the Chinese-Canadian Concern Group on the Chinese Communist Party’s Human Rights Violations in an emailed statement sent to Epoch Times sister media New Tang Dynasty TV on July 10.
The most apparent abnormality was the sidelining of NDP MP Jenny Kwan, a vocal critique of Beijing’s human rights abuses, according to the group. Ms. Kwan represents the Vancouver East riding, where the museum is located. However, she was neither introduced by the emcee nor invited onto the stage along with other MPs to unveil a commemorative plaque.
“In response to the cold treatment of MP Jenny Kwan at the Chinese Canadian Museum’s opening ceremony, the Concern Group expressed its dissatisfaction and raised concerns in a news release, questioning whether this is another instance of the Chinese Communist Party targeting a political figure who dares to criticize human rights issues in China through Chinese Canadian community organizations,” the statement said.
The seating arrangement was also called to question because Ms. Kwan was not given a designated seat despite being a third-term elected MP.
In contrast, Wilson Miao, a Liberal MP newly elected in 2021, who is not from the riding, was invited to the stage for the plaque unveiling and had a seat in the front row, right next to Senator Yuen Pau Woo.
Mr. Woo has on various occasions taken stances aligned with Beijing’s policies, such as praising the national security law that has been used to clamp down on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, and voting against a Senate motion in June 2021 that would recognize the CCP’s oppression of Uyghur Muslims as an act of genocide. Mr. Woo previously also confirmed to The Epoch Times that he helped draft a petition opposing creation of a foreign agent registry in Canada.
“If this was not an oversight on the part of the museum, then this drastic diversion from usual protocols raises concerns about whether members of the senior governance of the Chinese Canadian Museum, which is supported by public funding, are actively colluding with the CCP, or if there is direct CCP intervention, to target a politician who is critical of human rights abuses committed by the CCP,” Concern Group spokesperson Thekla Lit said in the statement.
“Has this event been used to send the message that those who propagate support for the CCP will receive front and centre recognition in the community, while those who raise criticisms of the CCP’s human rights abuses, and the erosion of Hong Kong’s democracy, will be sidelined?”
Ms. Kwan said she did note how the Chinese Canadian Museum event adopted a process that differed from the general protocol for announcements involving government officials.
“Generally speaking, at such events, in the minimum, the local representative would be acknowledged,” she told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “This deviation was certainly noticeable by many in the community.”
Ms. Kwan said that on the same afternoon, she attended a separate event, hosted by the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), where she experienced “a stark difference in the protocol.”
She said she had advocated for federal funding for both the Chinese Canadian Museum and the PNE, and International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan was at the PNE event to announce funding for the exhibition.
“At the PNE event, I was seated next to the Minister and I was acknowledged by the host organization, the PNE, and the Minister for my advocacy,” she said.
“One has to wonder why I was treated so differently at the Canadian Chinese Museum event. Does the fact that I am being targeted by the Chinese government for foreign interference play a role in the kind of treatment that I received or was it strictly partisan in nature?”
Ms. Kwan had revealed back in May that she had just been informed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that she has been a target of Beijing for many years due to her criticism of the regime’s abuse of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.
Ms. Kwan, who was born in Hong Kong, has also been outspoken against the Hong Kong national security law, which has been used to suppress the pro-democratic movement in the city since its introduction in 2020. In 2021, she condemned the Hong Kong authorities’ arrest of six journalists from a pro-democracy news outlet.
The Chinese Canadian Museum denied the allegation that arrangements at the July 1 ceremony intentionally targeted Ms. Kwan, saying that the lack of recognition of the MP was due to time constraints.
“We have the utmost respect and deepest admiration for MP Jenny Kwan for her long career in public service, and her incredible achievements, especially as the first Chinese Canadian appointed to Cabinet,” Hosea Cheung, the museum’s director of marketing and visitor experience, said in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times.
Mr. Cheung went on to say that “all elected officials from all levels of government were asked by the emcees to stand and were recognized by those in attendance.” However, this contradicts the accounts of the Concern Group and Ms. Kwan that Ms. Kwan was not acknowledged at the event.
He also said that only four government representatives were given time to deliver speeches, namely Ms. Ng, Mr. Eby, Mr. Sim, and Lana Popham, B.C.’s minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport.
“We would have loved to invite other elected officials to speak but could not given the limited time, in our already 1.5 hour-long program, so many of the other elected officials in attendance could not be reasonably accommodated in the formal speaking order,” Mr. Cheung said.
In addition, he said designated front-row seats at the ceremony were only “assigned to elected officials and speakers who had a role in our opening ceremony,” while all other elected officials were seated in the front rows of the section on the right.
The Chinese Canadian Museum, whose creation was first proposed in 2017, has received substantial government funding, including $5.18 million from the federal government and $48.5 million from the B.C. government.
Among the museum’s 18 board members are those who have taken stances aligned with the Chinese communist regime, including Guo Ding, a well-known political commentator in B.C., and William Ma, leader of several Chinese organizations.
Mr. Ding has a long track record of siding with Beijing and denying its human rights violations. He has openly defended the Hong Kong police crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2019, criticized U.S. and Canada’s support of democratic Taiwan, and claimed that the Xinjiang issue is China’s internal affairs. Mr. Ding also characterized as “racist” CSIS, critics of Senator Yuen Pau Woo, and Canadian media outlets reporting on Chinese interference, and accused these individuals and organizations of smearing the Chinese people.
In addition, Mr. Ding is founding president of the Canada Committee 100 Society (CCS100), a B.C. non-profit that promotes Chinese Canadians’ participation in politics as well as various Beijing-friendly candidates. The CCS100’s slogan, “Building a community of shared future for Chinese Canadians,” is similar to a well-known CCP slogan, “Building a community of common destiny for mankind,” coined by Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2013.
Mr. Ma is executive president of the Guangdong Community Association of Canada and vice-president of the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver. Both organizations are among the community groups that published an advertisement in a Chinese-language newspaper 0n Aug. 18, 2019, in support of the Hong Kong police shortly after a series of incidents of police brutality targeting pro-democracy protestors in the city.
The Guangdong Community Association of Canada was also the organizer of the 2022 Vancouver Chinatown Lunar Year celebrations, at which Ms. Kwan was also excluded.
The Epoch Times reached out to Mr. Ding and Mr. Ma for comment via the Chinese Canadian Museum but didn’t hear back.
Victor Ho, another Concern Group spokesperson, said he has concerns about the composition of the museum’s board, saying that they are not representative of the community, especially those who are opposed to the CCP. He said he is not aware of any of the current board members having a history of being critical of the CCP.
“The representation among board members of the Chinese Canadian Museum [CCM] does not seem sufficiently comprehensive, at least not in terms of representing the position of the members of our group,” he told The Epoch Times.
“At present, the CCM’s board members are more inclined to support or not criticize the CCP, while [the board] is lacking representation of those in the Chinese community who are not inclined to support Beijing’s position.”