The spokesman for a Liberal candidate under a federal ethics investigation says a pro-China protester was just visiting Joe Peschisolido’s campaign office on opening day.
But Eileen Chen says she volunteered to help re-elect the Steveston-Richmond East candidate.
theBreaker.news revealed that Chen attended the Sept. 15 opening of Peschisolido’s campaign office near No. 5 Road. Chen is the CEO of CYC Royal International Culture Group (aka Haoyu International), a Richmond-based event production and advertising company with two offices in China.
In the exclusive video below, Chen said in Peschisolido’s campaign office that she is his events assistant in the Chinese community. She was photographed near Peschisolido’s photo backdrop, helping shoot pictures of supporters with the incumbent while standing beside Peschisolido aide Michael Wong.
theBreaker.news first encountered Chen, and attempted to interview her, at the noisy Aug. 17 pro-China protest outside a Canada Line station near Vancouver city hall. Chen was at that protest with her company’s chief technology officer, Adamas Kou. They sang China’s national anthem, waved flags and shouted at a group supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Chen and Kou were prominently located in the front row of the group and Kou explained that they were protesting “to defend our country.”
A government website in Shanxi Province credited the Canada Vancouver Shanxi Natives Society and director Cao Zhen Yu for coordinating what it called a “solidarity gathering.” The city engineering department issued a political expression structure permit to Zi Ying Zhang of Vancouver, according to documents released under the freedom of information law. Zhang, however, is not listed as a director of either the Canada Vancouver Shanxi Natives Society or Canada Shanxi Business Association.
Peschisolido spokesman Kevin Li called the office opening a public event because it was posted on Peschisolido’s Facebook page. Li said that he “cannot speak on behalf of Ms. Chen or Mr. Wong,” but said that Chen was not wearing the official Peschisolido re-election campaign T-shirt.
“Eileen Chen was merely one of many visitors of the day and has no role in the re-election campaign,” Li said in a written statement. “She did not provide any service to the constituency office and was never paid.”
Chen described Wong as her manager and Wong agreed that she was involved in Peschisolido’s campaign. When pressed for details, Wong suddenly changed his story about her status.
Documentary filmmaker Ina Mitchell was at Peschisolido’s office opening when she encountered both Chen and Wong and recorded this exchange, which she provided to theBreaker.news:
Mitchell: “I saw you at the protests, the pro-China protests. So are you working with Joe?”
Chen: “Yes, events assistant.”
Mitchell: “You’re his assistant?”
Chen: “Just for some Chinese community events.”
Mitchell: “So is he OK with you going and doing pro-China events.”
Chen: “Yes. You better to ask Michael. Michael is our manager. Michael Wong.”
[Chen attracted Wong’s attention.]
Mitchell: “Did you organize some of the pro-China events in Vancouver?”
Wong: “No, no.”
Mitchell: “Because Eileen was at them, I was surprised.”
Wong: “She was there, yeah. She has nothing to do with it.”
Mitchell: “Is that not a worry? Were you concerned by it?”
Wong: “Oh, yeah, yeah. She was not representing us, anyway.”
Mitchell: “She’s not representing you, she was doing it on her own, is what you’re saying?”
Wong: “Yes. Yes.”
Mitchell: “Did you talk to her about it afterwards, that it was not such a good idea?”
Wong: “I told her that’s her decision to take part.”
Mitchell: “Yes and no. She’s an individual for sure, but she’s also representing a Minister (sic) of Parliament.”
Wong: “That’s why she’s not representing us.”
Mitchell: “She’s working with here, she’s working with him.”
Wong: “She’s not anymore.”
Mitchell: “Was she fired?”
Mitchell: “She’s fired? But she’s right here!”
Peschisolido has not responded for comment.
Chen did not respond to requests for comment. But, while a reporter was covering a Sept. 25 protest against the Chinese government outside the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, Chen was spotted entering the Waterfront Centre Hotel. She went to the meeting room where Chinese consulate staff were preparing to host a cocktail party for municipal politicians and bureaucrats.
Chen would only say “I just volunteer” and would not answer other questions.
Photographs published on WeChat show Chen was also at the Vancouver Convention Centre during a Sept. 20 reception to mark the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule. She posed for a photograph while holding a Chinese flag with deputy consul Kong Weiwei.
Chen may not have been the only member of her company at Peschisolido’s office opening. Photographs show a man who looks identical to CYC’s general manager, Michael Wang Hongxiang. When reached by phone, Wang denied he was at the office opening.
Government accountability watchdog Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC said Peschisolido needs to clear the air.
“It’s the responsibility now of the member of parliament to make very clear to the media and the public as to what exactly her role is, has been in the past, whether she’s been paid or not, and what she’s being asked to do on behalf of his campaign,” Travis said.
Peschisolido’s main challenger in the Oct. 21 federal election is Conservative Kenny Chiu, the 2015 runner-up by 2,856 votes.
In August, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion confirmed that he was investigating a Conservative complaint alleging that Peschisolido failed to disclose that the B.C. Law Society had appointed a custodian to wind-up his law firm in April. Peschisolido has been the subject of various media reports since his 2015 election about clients at his law firm who have been accused of investment fraud and real estate money laundering.
In a July statement, Peschisolido said: “In all my duties, I have always conducted myself with utmost integrity and professionalism.”
The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians warned last February that Canada is “vulnerable to foreign actors seeking to illegitimately influence or interfere in our political and economic processes.” Australian professor Clive Hamilton is author of “Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia.” Earlier this year, after a Canadian tour, Hamilton said that Beijing-friendly business, expat and cultural groups are infiltrating political parties.
“People whose allegiance is to a foreign country and a totalitarian, foreign political party are now being represented at the local, provincial and federal level,” said Hamilton, in an interview with theBreaker.news Podcast.
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