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HomeBusinessWhere is George? B.C. cybersecurity minister Chow a no-show when NDP says foreigner attacked IT system

Where is George? B.C. cybersecurity minister Chow a no-show when NDP says foreigner attacked IT system

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Bob Mackin 

The B.C. NDP government is not identifying the state or state-sponsored actor that attacked its networks last month. 

But the minister responsible for the government’s information technology and cybersecurity departments was absent from a May 10 news conference and his staff have not revealed why. 

Mike Farnworth, the Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister, conducted a brief, 15-minute question and answer session with reporters after a briefing by Shannon Salter, the head of the B.C. public service.

NDP minister of state George Chow (WeChat)

Minister of Citizens’ Services George Chow (NDP-Vancouver Fraserview) was not present. 

Chow, however, was in the Legislature on May 9, the day after Premier David Eby’s bombshell news release that disclosed “sophisticated cybersecurity incidents” had occurred. 

Chow did not respond for comment.

The government reported the incidents to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, RCMP, Microsoft Detection and Response Team and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Salter said that there had been three attempts, the first one detected April 10, to breach the government system. The attack prompted a government-wide memo on April 29 ordering workers to change their passwords from 10 characters to 14. 

“I’m not able to comment on what state actor or state-sponsored actor there might be,” Farnworth told reporters. “It is the world we live in. We know that data information and accessing government information systems is something that is is a reality.”

Which country could be the source? 

The 2023 Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) public report said China, Russia, Iran and India are “major perpetrators of foreign interference and espionage in Canada.” 

“Foreign states engage in a variety of hostile activities such as elicitation, cultivation, coercion, illicit financing, malicious cyber activities, and information manipulation to interfere in Canada,” the CSIS report said. 

Malicious cyber techniques include compromising electronic devices through various means including socially engineered emails, ransomware, and malware. Farnworth did not specify the attacker’s method, but denied it was ransomware.

Where is George? 

George Chow stands with Xi Jinping’s top B.C. diplomat Yang Shu in September 2023 in Richmond’s Lipont Place on a Chinese TV network report. (Phoenix TV)

None of the reporters chosen May 10 to ask Farnworth a question inquired about Chow’s whereabouts. 

This reporter asked the Ministry of Citizens’ Services press office why Chow was not with Farnworth and where he was instead. 

Communications manager Jennifer Fernandes responded with a one-sentence answer that did not address the question. 

“We are confirming Minister Farnworth gave the media briefing in his role as Deputy Premier,” Fernandes wrote.

(The government’s advisory to reporters used only Farnworth’s Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister title. It is standard procedure for all relevant ministers to be involved in a government announcement. For instance, a day earlier, the ministers of emergency management, forests and water, land, resource stewardship teamed-up for a wildfire prevention news conference. )

Fernandes and colleague Vivian Thomas were asked again to explain Chow’s no show, but neither responded. 

China-born Chow is a former president of the pro-Beijing Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver. He served two terms on the Vision Vancouver city council majority from 2005 to 2011, when the mayor was pro-Beijing environmentalist Gregor Robertson. Chow is in his second and final term as an NDP MLA. 

Chow was the Minister of State for Trade until Eby succeeded John Horgan as premier in late 2022. Eby named Jagrup Brar to replace Chow after the federal Liberal government unveiled its Indo-Pacific Strategy to reduce Canada’s reliance on trade with China. 

Early this year, Chow became the parliamentary secretary for international credentials under Post-Secondary Education minister Selina Robinson. In February, Eby bowed to pressure from anti-Israel activists and fired Robinson after she said Israel was founded on “a crappy piece of land.” Citizens’ services minister Lisa Beare took over Robinson’s portfolio on an interim basis. On Feb. 20, Eby named Chow the full-time citizens’ services minister. 

Chow is frequently found at the head table and stage of banquets for cultural and business associations aligned with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) consulate’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, better known as the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

In 2018, Chow traveled with Horgan on a trade mission to China, appeared at the Guangdong business convention in Vancouver (attended by United Front vice-minister Su Bo), welcomed Wang Chen, from Xi Jinping’s Politburo to Vancouver and met in Guangdong with CCP officials. The latter meeting took place almost a week after Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s arrest at Vancouver International Airport on a U.S. fraud warrant.  

Foreign Interference Inquiry Commissioner Marie-Josee Hogue’s initial report called the UFWD “a key CCP entity engaged in foreign interference.”

“Internationally, the UFWD attempts to control and influence the Chinese diaspora, shape international opinions, and influence politicians to support PRC policies. It has a budget in the billions,” Hogue wrote. “The UFWD blurs the lines between foreign influence and foreign interference. It engages in clandestine, deceptive, and threatening activity around the world, often by leveraging influence and exerting control over some diaspora communities.”

In June 2010, CSIS director Richard Fadden sounded the alarm about China’s foreign influence tactics. He told CBC that there were “several municipal politicians in B.C. and in at least two provinces there are ministers of the Crown who we think are under at least the general influence of a foreign government.”

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