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HomeBusinessExclusive: Surveying B.C. political leaders after MPs declared China committing genocide

Exclusive: Surveying B.C. political leaders after MPs declared China committing genocide


Bob Mackin

The Vancouver NPA city councillor who frequents events with People’s Republic of China government officials refuses to comment after the House of Commons declared the Chinese Communist Party is committing genocide against Uighur Muslims.

Sarah Kirby-Yung and Jean Swanson at an event marking 70 years of Communist rule in China (Sun Wah Centre)

“No comment,” Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung said. “Foreign policy is not the jurisdiction of Vancouver city council. We have significant issues to focus on that are within our mandate, and they need our full attention.”

Kirby-Yung did not answer questions about why she is ducking the issue, after being involved in annual social media campaigns to commemorate one of the world’s worst genocides, the Holocaust. In July 2019, Kirby-Yung tabled a motion calling on city council to support the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance campaign to stop anti-semitism.

Kirby-Yung was the only member of Vancouver city council to attend a ceremony outside the Vancouver Art Gallery to mark 70 years of CCP rule on Sept. 28, 2019, where she posed for photographs with Consul-Gen. Tong Xiaoling. Kirby-Yung is married to Vancouver Police S. Sgt. Terry Yung, the chair of SUCCESS who is also involved in a Justice Institute of B.C. program that trains police from China.

Photo from Dawa News story on the Sept. 28, 2019 ceremony featuring Consul Gen. Tong Xiaoling and Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung

The House of Commons voted 266-0 on Feb. 22 to declare genocide and ask the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Olympics from Beijing if the atrocities continue. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal cabinet did not attend the vote. More than a million Uighurs are detained in concentration camps and recent reports indicate women have been raped and sterilized.

Unlike Kirby-Yung, her fellow NPA Coun. Colleen Hardwick said “good.”

“Clearly this is out of municipal jurisdiction but it’s encouraging that the federal government is standing up to the PRC, for once,” Hardwick said.

Other NPA councillors, Melissa De Genova and Lisa Dominato did not respond. Same for independent Rebecca Bligh and OneCity’s Christine Boyle.

Two of the three Green Party councillors agreed with Hardwick.

“I support the Government of Canada’s position,” said Coun. Adriane Carr. “Genocide must be strongly condemned and have consequences.”

“Yes! I support the decision at HOC,” said Coun. Pete Fry, whose mother, West End Liberal MP Hedy Fry, was among the 226.

Coun. Michael Wiebe said he had no comment, because “I want to ensure space on this critical topic.”

COPE Coun. Jean Swanson said she consulted former COPE Coun. Anne Roberts. “The treatment of the Uighurs is horrible. Whether it’s genocide is not clear, and there are other political factors that are complicating it,” Swanson said.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who discussed “sub-national co-operation” in a phone call with China’s ambassador to Canada last summer, did not respond.

Staff for Premier John Horgan ignored requests for comment. 

During last fall’s election campaign, asked Horgan about British Columbians concerned with China’s human rights abuses.

China consul general Tong Xiaoling, left, and Premier John Horgan on Feb. 4, 2019 in Richmond (BC Gov)

“I’m focussed on getting us all safely through the pandemic,” Horgan said. “That’s not to say we turn a blind eye to abuses in any corner of the world. Largely a federal responsibility, as you know, but I believe leaders have a responsibility to speak up when these issues arise.”

By contrast, Horgan has recently spoken out against new farming laws in India that favour corporations. The controversy has sparked mass-protests in the world’s second most-populous country and noisy car rallies in Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria.

Other B.C. politicians known to be friends of China also did not respond, including NDP secretary of state for international trade George Chow, BC Liberal tourism critic Teresa Wat, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Richmond Coun. Chak Au and Burnaby Coun. James Wang.

The most-outspoken critic of China in B.C. politics is Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, who appeared with Uighurs at a 2019 protest outside the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention while the Chinese government hosted a cocktail party.

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