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HomeBusinessLocal actress says she was duped to appear in pro-Meng Wanzhou rally

Local actress says she was duped to appear in pro-Meng Wanzhou rally

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Bob Mackin

A local actress said she would never have gone to the Law Courts in Vancouver on the morning of Jan. 20 had she known she would wind up in a manufactured protest seeking freedom for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Julia Hackstaff told theBreaker.news and CTV News Vancouver that she thought she was going to be an extra in a film shoot when she was contacted the night before by a Facebook acquaintance. She found herself among about two dozen young people holding signs that read: “Free Ms. Meng. Bring Michael home. Trump stop bullying us. Equal justice.”

Actress Julia Hackstaff said she was duped into protesting in favour of Meng Wanzhou on Jan. 20 (Mackin)

B.C. Supreme Court has gained the attention of worldwide media outlets while it hears the extradition case against Meng, who the United States wants to try on fraud charges. Oddly, the signs Hackstaff and others held referred to Meng as “Ms. Meng” and mentioned “Michael,” in the singular. China arrested not one, but two Canadian men named Michael — diplomat Kovrig and businessman Spavor — in apparent retaliation for Meng’s detention in December 2018. 

Hackstaff believes there were multiple layers of organization and wants to know who was ultimately in charge, “so that person gets called out.”

“At the end of the day, it’s really unfair that I was there for only a few minutes and I’m the only name and face being singled out,” Hackstaff told theBreaker.news in a Jan. 21 interview.

Hackstaff said she was contacted Sunday night by a Facebook acquaintance about a possible background performer gig on Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. that was going to pay her $100.

When she arrived outside the courthouse, she was told the group would be meeting at the Holiday Inn. By the time she arrived at the nearby hotel, everyone had departed. She was then told to return to the courthouse entrance on Smithe Street where the group had assembled.

Actress Julia Hackstaff on the set of a real production (Instagram)

Hackstaff, who was accompanied by her roommate, suddenly began to see TV cameras. Reporters were approaching her with questions that she was unable to answer.

“It made no sense, we were never given any information on anything and normally even if you’re an extra or background performer there’s always someone telling you where to go or what to do or what you’re supposed to say,” she said.

Hackstaff realized that no one called “action!” It was not a film production, but a protest. So Hackstaff and her roommate left in a panic without collecting any payment. She said she informed the person who had recruited her, but she said he was equally surprised.

The organizers, whoever they were, “could’ve done a better job at lying to us,” Hackstaff said.

“I had read a few headlines about the case in the last few weeks, but I don’t really know about the case,” she said.

A man told documentary filmmaker Ina Mitchell outside the courthouse on Jan. 20 that he had been tricked to appear at the protest. The man, who declined to provide his name, said he was recruited to appear in a music video for $100.

“When there was all these cameras, for a long time I believed it was filming a scene where someone was coming out of a car,” he said. “So I was genuinely like, OK, fine to do this. Then reporters start showing up and, I don’t feel great about this anymore. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

He said he started asking questions, but was faced with a “merry-go-round of non-answers.”

Information obtained by theBreaker.news indicates there were as many as four layers of people involved, either actively or passively. A local producer, who asked that his name not be published said he was contacted on Sunday while at a family function by a woman who needed a group of people to hold signs on Monday morning. The producer said he was provided no details. theBreaker.news understands a woman named Helen with a Saskatchewan phone number was actively involved. She has not replied to phone messages. 

theBreaker.news asked executives from Hill and Knowlton, which represents Huawei, whether the lobbying and public relations firm had any involvement whatsoever in the bizarre protest. Western Canada general manager Stephen Smart and vice-president Meaghan Campbell did not respond to an email query.

Mainland Chinese student protests last August in Vancouver were similarly manufactured. theBreaker.news reported that a website for an arm of the Communist Party’s Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese revealed that the organizer was the Canadian Vancouver Shanxi Natives Society, which has links to the local consulate.

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