A retired B.C. Provincial Court judge with a history of supporting the Chinese Communist Party government remains an advisor to Premier John Horgan, despite denying China is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims.
Bill Yee, co-chair of the Premier’s Chinese-Canadian Community Advisory Committee, was interviewed March 30 on Toronto A1 Radio.
“I think on the recent Xinjiang matter, Canada’s decision is not based on the fact, but on some politicians who have ulterior motives, or countries using cotton trade to make up a huge story,” Yee said. “I think what they said about genocide and human rights in Xinjiang are being made up.”
In the House of Commons on Feb. 22, a Conservative-tabled motion passed 266-0, with support from all parties, to declare China is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims and to call on the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Games out of Beijing.
On March 21, Canada joined the United States and United Kingdom to sanction four CCP officials and a security agency, citing evidence from Chinese government documents, satellite imagery and eyewitness testimony. “China’s extensive program of repression includes severe restrictions on religious freedoms, the use of forced labour, mass detention in internment camps, forced sterilizations, and the concerted destruction of Uyghur heritage,” read a joint statement.
The group Vancouverites Concerned About Hong Kong said on Twitter April 6 that it was “outraged” that Yee is denying the genocide, “parroting CCP party lines” and acting as an advisor to Horgan.
“He literally gaslit the many testimonies from Uyghurs and said he thinks it’s all made up,” the group Tweeted.
On April 6, the NDP Premier’s office distanced Horgan from Yee’s stance on Xinjiang, but stopped short of removing him from the committee.
“Bill Yee was expressing personal opinions which do not represent the positions of the Advisory Committee,” said a statement sent to theBreaker.news from press secretary George Smith. “The Government of British Columbia supports the federal government’s position on these important matters. The mandate of the Advisory Committee was set up to provide inputs to the government on domestic community issues and does not include foreign affairs. Therefore, Mr. Bill Yee has been asked to not identify himself as a member of the Advisory Committee when expressing personal opinions.”
An April 7 open letter to Horgan, from 13 British Columbians concerned with human rights in China, called for Yee’s firing.
“His divisive one-party worldview will not strengthen social, economic and cultural ties among members of the Chinese diaspora in this province and beyond, nor improve understanding of the diversity of the Chinese community by your government or others,” said the open letter.
Yee was the first Chinese-Canadian elected to Vancouver city council in 1982 and he remained at 12th and Cambie until 1986. The honourary citizen of Guangzhou, Vancouver’s Chinese sister city, also served on the Vancouver Police Board (1992 to 1997) and BC Hydro board (1997 to 1999).
While he was president of the Vancouver Chinese Benevolent Association, Yee supported the People’s Republic of China consulate’s campaign against a University of B.C. statue to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre.
In January 1991, Yee wrote UBC president David Strangway on the letterhead of the pro-Beijing CBA, urging him to cancel the local replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue that Chinese soldiers destroyed on June 4, 1989 when they violently ended a peaceful protest by students seeking democracy. A copy of the letter was obtained under the freedom of information laws by documentary filmmaker Ina Mitchell.
“The presence of a statue of this kind in the campus does nothing positive to the viewers who normally see it other than to remind them of an incident in Beijing,” said Yee’s letter.
Yee claimed that the statue would amount to Canadian meddling in Chinese affairs and he likened it to China highlighting Canada’s head tax and Chinese exclusion act. He even suggested the human rights activists should take their complaints to China directly.
“If the aims and objectives of the applicants in this instance is to promote more democracy in China, it would seem only logical that the forum for their efforts should be in China, not Canada and definitely not in a setting such as yours,” said Yee’s letter.
Yee’s letter was along the same lines as one in October 1990 from An Wenbin, the consul general for the People’s Republic of China in Vancouver.
But both Yee and An failed to convince UBC. The statue was eventually erected near the Students’ Union Building.
It was restored in time for the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 2019.
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