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HomeOpinionOp-ed: Coalition says Horgan must remove Uyghur genocide denier Yee from advisory committee

Op-ed: Coalition says Horgan must remove Uyghur genocide denier Yee from advisory committee


On April 6, reported that a genocide denier remains advisor to Premier John Horgan.

A coalition of human rights activists in the Chinese-Canadian community in British Columbia has written the following open letter to Horgan, calling for Bill Yee’s removal from his advisory role. 

We are a group of long time British Columbians of Chinese descent who are dismayed by the outrageous comments of Mr. Bill Yee, the co-chair of your Chinese-Canadian Community Advisory Committee on Toronto’s A-1 Radio on March 30.

Bill Yee (BC Gov)

In this Cantonese interview, Mr. Yee repeated some twisted logic as in the official response of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to Canada’s declaration that a genocide is carried out by China against the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

We have three major concerns:

The first is what Mr. Yee, introduced as the current co-chair of the Premier’s Chinese-Canadian Community Advisory Committee, says. In the interview, Mr. Yee expressed the following:

1.      The decision of our parliamentarians on the genocide motion was not based on facts and our parliamentarians have ulterior motive.

2.      The Uyghur genocide accusation is an excuse to create a cotton trade dispute.

3.      Our MPs don’t know where Xinjiang is, and haven’t been to Xinjiang or China; therefore, their assessments are based on lies. (Mr. Yee ignored the 2 Uyghur studies (2018, 2021) conducted by the parliament, expert inputs to the Common’s Special Committee on Canada-China relations and the Xinjiang Documentation Project.)

4.      The genocide accusation is false because the population in Xinjiang has grown and the life expectancy in the region has increased. (Apart from ignoring that millions of Han people were shipped into Xinjiang to control the region, Mr. Yee should know that the United Nations definition of genocide is much broader than number reduction: United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect)

5.      China has 56 minority groups; therefore, it doesn’t make sense (hence not true) for China to target the Uyghurs. (The fact is, China has exercised the same tyranny over the Tibetans, Mongolians, Hongkongers, Falun Gong followers, Christians, etc.)

6.      There are trouble makers who oppose government policy in every country; therefore, testimonies by the Uyghur witnesses are not acceptable evidence and not objective facts. (It is shocking to see a former judge is not aware, unlike any democracy, China’s one-party regime allows no freedom for people to criticize or vote out a non-performing government, and creates a sad veneer of peace by incarcerating or terminating any dissenting individuals or groups.)

7.      Our Prime Minister should not sanction China.

We hope this is not the advice that you have been getting from Mr. Yee. Given that advisory committees influence government policy, our second concern is on what criteria are members of B.C.’s Chinese-Canadian Community Advisory Committee selected. Is it based on the titles one has behind one’s name? One’s successful career? The frequency one appears on Chinese community events? Or is it based on one’s track record on allegiance to Canada, upholding Canadian values of human rights and justice, providing independent opinion on community issues rather than becoming a mouth piece for a foreign regime?

Bill Yee (far left) at a September 2018 Chinatown ceremony with Premier John Horgan and then-Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson (BC Gov)

While the last one appears to be most relevant, Mr. Yee’s record has him, while president of Chinese Benevolent Association in 1989, defending the Tiananmen Square Massacre by first stating that no one was killed, then changed his tone to one killed after hundreds of fatalities were reported by media.

He was also the architect behind removing the pro-Kuomintang directors from the CBA Board and changing it to pro-CCP (Chinese Communist Party). Also after the Massacre, the traumatized Chinese community was split on whether to hold the celebration on October 1, the anniversary of the founding of P.R.C. Mr. Yee then defended holding the National Day celebration, claiming it was a 30 year old tradition. In late 1990, he wrote a letter on behalf of CBA to the UBC’s former president, urging him to reject the proposed erection of a replica statue of Beijing student’s Goddess of Democracy on UBC grounds. In it, he repeated the same famous official line: allowing such would amount to meddling in China’s internal affairs! We have not heard Mr. Yee demanding the release of the two Michaels, but he is among those praising the notorious National Security Law imposed by China on Hong Kong since July 2020.

From the above record going back 32 years, it is clear where much of Mr. Yee’s allegiance lies. What kind of community leaders or events would he recommend to you? Can you afford to have a genocide-denier and tyranny-defender as advisor? Can British Columbians risk the perception of B.C. endorsing CCP and embolden more P.R.C. proxies to come out and spread CCP lies?

Since P.R.C. President Xi Jinping’s 2013 order “To tell a good China story,” P.R.C.’s United Front has doubled up its effort to dilute and dismiss criticisms and promote narratives favourable to CCP’s interests. It also seeks to enhance P.R.C.’s status and authority by getting into global decision-making process, with the goal of remodeling the international system, and ultimately the world order. So, its “diaspora” management program targets influential community members and groups in an effort to use them to infiltrate and influence local regions. Every Wednesday on AM1320, Mr. Yee appears as guest in a live talk show from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., defending on anything that exposes the tyrannical nature of P.R.C.

Our last concern is with the damage to the reputation of the entire Chinese community. By having one lacking integrity, professionalism and conscience to represent the Chinese community is an insult to the community members. Mr. Yee is entitled to his personal views. However, when he is holding the key advisory position to the premier, media look to him for ‘expert’ analysis and comments. His “personal views” get an official platform. His obvious pro-tyranny and anti-Canada stands not only tarnish the credibility of the B.C. government, but also misrepresent what the vast Chinese community aspires to. Most of us who left China after 1949 did so for a freer world than P.R.C. Mr. Yee represents the minority who somehow identifies more with the autocratic policies of the CCP.

A woman with a Xi Jinping poster during a June 2019 pro-Hong Kong protest outside the Chinese consulate mansion in Vancouver.

At a time when CCP can no longer hide the lies behind its name (that it is neither the People’s nor is it a republic) or its constitution (that it never honours the long list of human right protections within), it resorts to reminding the world that it is “representing” its 1.4 billion people. But the truth is, P.R.C.’s leaders were not elected by and have no need to listen to the 1.4 billion. So, how can they claim to represent anyone? CCP doesn’t represent the Chinese people, let alone the Chinese-Canadian community.

It is totally understandable of the public anger against P.R.C.’s horrendous human rights violations and international aggression. Sadly, misplaced animosity against Canadians of Chinese descent has been on the rise due to ignorance on the diversity of opinions particularly on CCP among Chinese-Canadians. We are extremely concerned when geopolitically driven opinions by your key advisor would implicate the Chinese community further and fan the flame of racialized hatreds.

Based on the above serious concerns, we strongly recommend the removal of Mr. Yee from the Chinese-Canadian Community Advisory Committee. 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.

(in alphabetical order of last names)

Bill Chu, Founder of Canadians for Reconciliation Society

Victor Ho, Co-founder of Vancouver-based Media Analytical Inc.

Thekla Lit, Asian Holocaust Education Advocate 

Thomas Lou, Retired journalist

Stanley Ng, President of Institute for Christian Action and Contemplation 

Shun Kau Ngan, Writer

Fenella Sung, Founding Convenor, Canadian Friends of Hong Kong

Norman Sung, Canadian economist and Global news commentator

Tommy Tao, Retired lawyer

Mabel Tung, Chair of Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement

Ken Tung, Past Chairperson of S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

Eleanor Yuen, Former Head of Asian Library, UBC

Rev. Howard Yeung, Spiritual Director of Institute for Christian Action and Contemplation

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