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Bob Mackin

What was George Chow, British Columbia’s Minister of State for Trade, doing in China while a diplomatic row erupted? 

Staff of the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fraserview aren’t talking, but Chow posed for a photo at the Guangzhou Overseas Chinese Affairs Office on Dec. 7. It was published on the organization’s website Dec. 10, which was, coincidentally, United Nations Human Rights Day. 

One of the photographs shows Chow sitting at a table where both the People’s Republic of China and Communist Party flags are displayed. Guangzhou Overseas Chinese Affairs Office is part of the wider United Front Work Department, a controversial Chinese government program aimed at promoting Xi Jinping and his policies and influencing foreign governments. 

B.C. NDP minster of state George Chow (second from right) meeting Guangzhou Communist officials (People’s Government of Guangzhou Municipality)

Chow’s meeting in Guangzhou happened after news broke Dec. 5 that Canadian police arrested Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver International Airport on request of American authorities who want to try her on fraud charges. Meng was released on bail Dec. 11 and awaits extradition proceedings in the new year.  

Chow was with former Chinatown Business Improvement Area director Ko Man Chow at the Guangzhou meeting. They met Feng Guangjun, the office’s director. A translation indicated Feng made a presentation about “studying and implementing” Xi Jinping thought and “grasping” opportunities related to Xi’s massive One Belt and One Road highways and ports construction program. Chow spoke about preparations for a Canadian Chinese Museum, which was eventually publicized in a Dec. 14 B.C. government news release. 

Brad Spencer, a spokesman for the international trade ministry, told theBreaker on Dec. 13: “The minister is on a personal trip to China and not available for an interview.” 

Spencer did not respond to a follow-up email asking for more details about the costs and outcomes of Chow’s trip, and whether Chow is still in China.  China arrested businessman Michael Spavor and diplomat Michael Kovrig in retaliation for Meng’s detention.

Chow was on Premier John Horgan’s trade mission to China earlier this year and was front and centre with Horgan at May’s Vancouver-hosted 9th Conference of the World Guangdong Community Federation. The senior Chinese government official at the latter event was Su Bo, vice-minister of United Front. In June, Chow was among cabinet members who hosted a 24-person Chinese government entourage led by Wang Chen, a member of Xi’s powerful Politburo and vice-chair of the National People’s Congress standing committee. 

Horgan and Chinese Politburo member Wang Chen inJune 2018 (Rich Lam/BC Gov)

On Dec. 9, Jobs, Trade and Technology Minister Bruce Ralston announced forests minister Doug Donaldson had cancelled the China leg of an Asia trade mission. Industry representatives carried-on without Donaldson. The news release made no mention that another member of cabinet, Chow, was in China. Chow’s itinerary has not been released, but he is scheduled to host the first of two holiday open houses in his South Vancouver riding on Dec. 18 at the River District Neighbourhood Centre. 

Chow was in his second term as a city councillor in pro-Beijing Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver caucus in 2010 when Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Richard Fadden warned in a CBC interview that a foreign government was influencing unidentified municipal politicians in British Columbia and cabinet ministers in at least two provinces.

Chow was elected an MLA in 2017, knocking-off BC Liberal attorney general Suzanne Anton. 

It is not the first time that a B.C. trade minister’s China visit has sparked concern. 

BC Liberal Richmond Centre MLA Teresa Wat was hospitalized in late August 2016 with a hip injury during a visit to Zhuhai, China. She did not respond to queries from reporters seeking to learn the cause of the injury. 

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Bob Mackin What was George Chow, British Columbia’s

Bob Mackin

Woe Christmas tree, woe Christmas tree. How muddy were thy circumstances.

Almost exactly five years before he was suspended, British Columbia Legislature clerk Craig James found himself at the centre of a seasonal scandal.

Christmas tree farmer Mike Fleming in 2016, three years after an American multinational company took the rotunda space that his trees occupied for four decades (Twitter)

Proud B.C. tree farmer Mike Fleming rolled-up to the Rockpile (as the 121-year-old Parliament Buildings are nicknamed) on Nov. 29, 2013 to deliver his annual gift to the people of the province: a majestic, 27-foot Douglas fir from his Saanichton Christmas Tree Farm. 

A CBC report at the time quoted Fleming as “speechless” after he entered the building to find a tree had already been erected in the rotunda. Fleming told the Times-Colonist he was “completely taken aback.” 

 “After 40 years of putting a tree in the Legislature, donating it and a tremendous amount of work, I’m very disappointed,” Fleming said. “Nobody had informed me from the Speaker’s office.”

The company that supplied the 2013 tree was Bartlett Tree Experts, a multinational headquartered in Stamford, Conn., with 100 locations across the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Ontario and B.C. 

Fleming’s tree was eventually erected behind the Legislature library. James said it was Speaker Linda Reid’s idea to put a tree on the exterior of the complex, to supplement the one in the rotunda. James admitted that nobody thought of telling Fleming before he arrived for his annual special delivery.

“I guess there was some miscommunication or non-communication and to that effect I certainly have apologized,” James told CBC. 

The Legislature’s list of suppler payments shows $36,886 was paid to Bartlett for the year ended March 31, 2014. Bartlett billed another $33,101 the following fiscal year. The list of suppliers does not provide spending details and the Legislature is not covered by the freedom of information law. 

Fleming died of a heart attack on Oct. 27, just shy of his 66th birthday. He was busy harvesting Christmas trees in the Kootenays. He kept delivering trees every Christmas. His staff kept the tradition going. The Legislature tweeted a picture of the 2018 tree’s rotunda installation on Dec. 3.

Linda Reid (left) and Craig James (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association)

James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz were suspended indefinitely with pay on Nov. 20 by the Legislature because of an RCMP investigation with two special prosecutors. 

Sources tell theBreaker that Mounties are probing a corruption allegation. James and Lenz hired the Fasken law firm and Peak Communicators crisis communications company to deny wrongdoing and ask for reinstatement. That is unlikely to come, as NDP and Green Legislative Assembly Management Committee members vowed not to interfere with the police investigation. 

Speaker Darryl Plecas emphatically told the Dec. 6 LAMC meeting that he detected serious problems shortly after he was appointed in September 2017. He vowed to quit if the results of a forensic audit do not outrage taxpayers.

“I felt a great duty to safeguard the integrity of this institution and be very mindful about why we’re all here,” Plecas told the meeting. “That’s to make sure that public dollars are spent appropriately.”

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Bob Mackin Woe Christmas tree, woe Christmas tree.

From his home near London, England, former Reuters foreign correspondent and fraud investigator Peter Humphrey has watched the Meng Wanzhou saga develop with great interest. 

“The arrest sounds like it is based on very black and white information that has been gathered after a very long, professional investigation,” Humphrey told Podcast host Bob Mackin. “The fact that Canada has released her on bail is really a very, very good sign that Canada is a country under the rule of law, in great contrast to all the scare stories that we hear in China.”

Peter Humphrey survived two years of torture in a Shanghai jail.

Huawei CFO Meng is accused of fraud by the United States for allegedly tricking banks to do business with an arm of the Chinese telecom giant in Iran. Meng will face extradition hearings in the new year. China retaliated by jailing Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing.

Meng was freed on $10 million bail Dec. 11 by a B.C. Supreme Court judge. She surrendered her passports, is subject to a curfew, must wear a GPS anklet and can only travel within parts of Vancouver, Richmond and the North Shore with the security team that she must fund. 

“It’s also a marked contrast to the barbaric manner in which I and my wife [Yu Yingzeng] were treated,” Humphrey said. “We were never bailed. I had prostate cancer, they knew, they didn’t want to admit it and tell me, and I was unable to get any medical treatment until I was released after two years in captivity. My wife had a kidney disease, same thing.”

Humphrey and Yu were charged in 2013 of illegally acquiring personal information of Chinese and convicted in 2014, after forced, false confessions on state TV. They were freed in 2015 due to international pressure.

“[The Communist Party of China] can do what they like. It’s not rule of law in China, it’s rule by law. That means the law is used as a toy or a big stick, held by those in power to bash the people that they don’t like.”

Listen to the full interview with Humphrey on this edition of Podcast. Humphrey has complained to the U.K.’s broadcast regulator to ban China’s state broadcasters CCTV and CGTN because they participate in human rights abuses. Specifically by broadcasting forced, false confessions, like the one that he endured. 

Also on this edition of Podcast, highlights of the Transparency International Canada Vancouver Day of Action. 

On Dec. 13, Transparency International Canada published the groundbreaking Western Canada Corruption Barometer. Host Bob Mackin moderated a panel discussion about the findings with the study authors, University of B.C. Okanagan professor Mike Zajko and lawyer Daniela Chimisso dos Santos. 

Dec. 13-released Western Canada Corruption Barometer (TI Canada)

In B.C., 26% of respondents saw the oil and gas sector as “extremely corrupt.” In Greater Vancouver, 37% called the real estate sector “extremely corrupt.”

Dos Santos, who focused on the extractive sector, found few of the 100 oil, gas and mining executives interviewed believe corruption is a problem. Few had heard about the 2015 Extractive Sector Transparency Measurement Act.

Hear Zajko and Dos Santos present more of their findings, plus commentaries. 

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Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: After Huawei exec's Vancouver bail, Shanghai jail survivor speaks out

From his home near London, England, former

Bob Mackin

Western Canadians sense the most corruption among federal and provincial politicians and their parties, according to a survey released Dec. 13.

Transparency International Canada’s first Western Canada Corruption Barometer also found the public has more faith in the media than governments to root-out corruption. 

Transparency International Canada report authors Mike Zajko (left) and Daniela Chimisso dos Santos

“In short, citizens feel the social contract is broken,” said Transparency International Canada’s chair Paul Lalonde and executive director James Cohen. “Respondents to the survey had low levels of expectations in the government’s ability to fight corruption. The anger that can stem from mistrust of public institutions needs to be acknowledged and addressed through responsive public policy and improvements to transparency and accountability in public institutions.”

The report, by University of British Columbia Okanagan professor Mike Zajko, analyzed the results of an August Leger poll of 1,207 people in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The top three definitions of corruption among respondents were self-interest over public service (31%); abuse of power (21%); and bribes and kickbacks (19%). Near the bottom of the list were money laundering (2%); tax schemes (1%) and insider information (1%). 

A slim majority (51%) perceive corruption to be a major problem, with 84% willing to report corruption and 54% willing to spread information on social media. 

The media and non-governmental organizations were each trusted by 22% to fight corruption. Government (14%) and the private sector (6%) were least trustworthy.

Media coverage was a key source of information about corruption, though corruption ranked behind high prices, poverty, environmental damage, employment and security among major concerns.

“Western Canadians are exposed to media coverage of corruption occurring at the federal and provincial levels, and recall fewer stories concerning municipal government, which accounts for some of the difference in perceptions of corruption among these sectors.”

Perceptions also varied around the region. In B.C., 26% of respondents saw the oil and gas sector as “extremely corrupt,” compared to 19% in Alberta. In Greater Vancouver, 37% called the real estate sector “extremely corrupt,” versus 15% elsewhere in Western Canada.

Despite public outrage related to the intersection of high real estate prices, the opioid epidemic and casino money laundering, B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan has been noncommittal about ordering a made-in-B.C. judicial inquiry into corruption. During the NDP’s 2017 policy convention, members of his own party voted for an anti-corruption probe similar to Quebec’s Charbonneau commission.

A parallel survey of 100 oil, gas and mining executives found 63% do not consider corruption to be a big problem. They pointed to employees breaking rules as the most-common type of corruption. Like the general public, extractive industry executives considered government corruption-fighting efforts unsuccessful. 

(TI Canada)

“Even though respondents do not believe corruption is a problem, executives acknowledge that the industry is marred with quid pro quo favours, and ‘friends of friends’ seem to have an advantage,” found author Daniela Chimisso dos Santos of Invenient Solutions Consulting.

Dos Santos was surprised that none of the executives interviewed knew about the Extractive Sector Transparency Measurement Act. The 2015 law requires reporting payments of $100,000 or more by Canadian oil, gas and mining companies to government-related individuals or entities with fines up to $250,000 per day of non-compliance. The law was expanded in 2017 to include payments to indigenous governments, though companies are not required to disclose all terms of agreements made with indigenous governments. 

“As both the oil and gas and mining industries are struggling to recover from a long-bust period, corruption risk has taken a back seat to problems such as market volatility and the increase in environmental regulations,” dos Santos concluded.

The Western Canadian Corruption Barometer was released to coincide with TI Canada’s Dec. 13 Vancouver Day of Dialogue, featuring a keynote speech by Attorney General David Eby. 

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Bob Mackin Western Canadians sense the most corruption

Bob Mackin

The mother in Vancouver’s ultimate astronaut family is now grounded until further notice. 

Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou, who is the daughter of the telecom giant’s multibillionaire founder, was freed from jail Dec. 11 after a British Columbia Supreme Court judge set bail at $10 million and ruled she must live in her $5.6 million Dunbar vacation home with an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. 

Meng, a resident of Shenzhen, China, handed-over her China and Hong Kong passports, and is restricted to travel within Vancouver, Richmond and North and West Vancouver.

Meng’s lawyer, David J. Martin, said she wants to be with her husband and daughter, read a novel, and apply to study for a doctorate at University of British Columbia’s business school. Meng will return to court on Feb. 6 to set a date to contest a bid by the United States to extradite her for a trial on fraud charges. Through Martin, Meng claimed she is innocent and vowed that she would not violate the judge’s bail order, because that would embarrass her father, Ren Zhengfei, Huawei and China.

The $5.6 million 28th Avenue house where Meng Wanzhou must live while she awaits the United States extradition application. (Mackin)

The oral decision by Justice William Ehrcke was greeted with clapping from Meng’s supporters, mainly Chinese immigrants and visitors who sat across the aisle of the complex’s biggest courtroom from reporters and associates of Meng. (Update: the written version of Ehrcke’s order was published Dec. 10. Read it, along with key exhibits from the United States and Meng’s lawyer, below.)

Outside the courthouse, some of the supporters displayed Chinese flags and signs reading “We Love Huawei” and “Free Ms. Meng” in front of cameras. 

Four Chinese-Canadians who are Vancouver residents came forward overnight, together pledging $3 million in cash and equity from their homes as financial guarantees to the court. One of those who is vouching that Meng will not flee Canada is the real estate agent who sold the two houses that bear the name of Meng’s husband, Liu Xiaozong, on the titles. Another of the proposed additional sureties is a yoga instructor neighbour in Dunbar. 

Federal Crown lawyer John Gibb-Carsley unsuccessfully opposed Meng’s bail, because of the risk that she would flee to China. He had called Liu, who also goes by “Carlos,” an unsuitable supervisor for Meng. If she fled, Gibb-Carsley said, he would naturally follow. Meng is wealthy enough to compensate Liu for the loss of any real estate pledged to the court.

Meng was also ordered to pay for her own round-the-clock security detail, whose job it is to ensure she wears a GPS anklet to monitor her movements and respects bail conditions. 

All of this was decided in an oral judgment after two-and-a-half days of hearings for the 46-year-old. She was arrested in Vancouver International Airport Dec. 1 after arriving from Hong Kong, but was prevented from continuing to Mexico City because U.S. authorities asked Canada to act upon an August arrest from New York. The U.S. alleges Meng committed fraud by convincing banks to approve transactions with an unofficial subsidiary of Huawei in order to subvert trade sanctions with Iran between 2009 to 2014. 

Meng did not talk to reporters when she was finally whisked away by her security detail from court-approved contractor Lions Gate Risk Management.

Meng Wanzhou in Stanley Park (B.C. Supreme Court exhibits)

Three blocks north, in the Chinese-state-owned Poly Culture art gallery, the region’s top Chinese government official told reporters she was pleased. 

“The order by the judge was only a preliminary good news for her and her family, because she is in a very fragile health condition,” said Tong Xiaoling, China’s consul general for British Columbia and Yukon. “So, by bail she could have a better condition for her health treatment. That is a preliminary good thing for her and her family, but our position is very clear, she’s innocent and we request her immediate release.”

Tong made brief remarks after speaking to a Canada China Business Council reception that was scheduled several weeks before Meng’s arrest sparked a diplomatic row. Tong did not mention the incident in her upbeat speech, which was billed as an update on bilateral trade discussions.  

In an affidavit, Meng stated she had a history of high blood pressure, carcinoma and sleep apnea. After her arrest, she was taken to Richmond Hospital for treatment of hypertension. 

China’s Vancouver envoy Tong Xiaoling (right) with former international trade minister Stockwell Day on Dec. 11 (Mackin)

“In the very first instances, the first minute when we got the information the news that she was stopped and she was in custody, we provided her consular assistance and consular protection,” Tong said. 

Chinese government propaganda arms used inflammatory language to demand Meng’s release, threatening Canada with “grave consequences.” Meng’s last morning in the Alouette women’s jail in Maple Ridge coincided with wire service stories about the apparent retaliatory arrest in Beijing of Michael Kovrig from the International Crisis Group. Kovrig is a Canadian diplomat on leave-of-absence. 

Meng’s arrest was in accordance with Canada’s extradition treaty with the U.S. Unlike China, Canadian and American politicians are strictly forbidden from meddling in the court. A fact that Ehrcke alluded to at the conclusion of the bail hearing.

“This has been, I’m sure everyone would agree, an unusual case,” Ehrcke told the court. “But I commend all counsel for both sides for your diligence and for your conducting these proceedings in the best traditions of our independent judiciary.” 

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2018 BCSC 2255 United States v. Meng by BobMackin on Scribd

Key Exhibits in U.S. v. Men… by on Scribd

Bob Mackin The mother in Vancouver’s ultimate astronaut

Bob Mackin 

The second day of the bail hearing for China’s most-prominent businesswoman, Meng Wanzhou, had just begun in courtroom 20 of the Law Courts in Vancouver when a man’s mobile phone ringtone sounded. 

It was China’s national anthem, “March of the Volunteers.” 

Pro-China protesters outside the Law Courts on Dec. 10 (Mackin)

No indication whether the phone was a model from Huawei Technologies, the telecom giant where Meng is chief financial officer.

Another man sat nearby, gazing through a pair of camouflage binoculars at the proceedings. No indication whether he has a visual impairment or just wanted a closer look at the proceedings in the facility’s biggest, most-secure courtroom. 

Come to think of it, despite the closed-circuit TV, Justice William Ehrcke does seem rather distant.

The lunch break on the Nelson Street plaza took on a circus-like tone. Several people appeared holding “I Love Huawei” signs, in defence of Meng, sparking media scrums. A spray painted sign read “Free Ms. Meng.” The streetcorner activism wasn’t there before the Chinese government’s propaganda arms published weekend rants scolding Canada and the U.S.

There were a few others who noted that Monday was international Human Rights Day and they reminded the unaware that Canada should be proud of its independent justice system and rule of law.

It is the world’s biggest court case, for the moment, but it was not resolved. Meng’s stay in the Alouette women’s prison in Maple Ridge was extended for at least another night. Meng’s legal team, a federal Crown lawyer and the judge spent the day inching closer to structuring a complex bail regimen for Meng until a curveball. 

What about her husband and how could he take on the role of a surety and so-called “jailer in the community”?  

Xiaozong Liu, Meng Wanzhou’s husband, outside the Law Courts (Mackin)

Meng became a permanent resident of Canada in 2001, but let that lapse in 2009. That was around the same time husband Liu Xiaozong was here studying for a master’s degree and the couple welcomed a daughter into the world. Liu’s name is on the title for two houses. One bought in 2009 in Dunbar, that is proposed as their home while she contests extradition to the U.S. on fraud charges. The other is a 2016-bought mansion in Shaughnessy, two doors down from the residence of the United States consul general. 

Lions Gate Risk Management’s Scot Filer, a retired RCMP officer, took the witness stand to explain how his company would offer round-the clock security for Meng, with two officers, a driver, a vehicle and encrypted communications technology from a Vancouver company called CommandWear Systems. The plan is to restrict Meng’s movements to City of Vancouver, Richmond and the North Shore. Filer admitted that his company has never been involved in such a project. They would work in concert with an Ontario company, Science Recovery, which provides GPS monitoring bracelets. None of the technology or the staff is guaranteed to prevent Meng from fleeing Canada, but it would minimize the risk. 

Meng wouldn’t be the first Asian jetsetter to be under strict bail conditions in Vancouver while fighting extradition. Rakesh Saxena, the “Marxist Millionaire,” was nabbed in 1996 by Mounties in Whistler. It took until 2009 to exercise all appeals and for Thai police to take him away. Ehrcke conceded that Meng’s case could proceed in similar slow fashion. 

Meng Wanzhou at Russia Calling 2014 (RT)

Meng’s lawyer, David J. Martin, continued to call her a woman of character and dignity, with deep respect for the rule of law and no criminal record herself. Martin said she has no motive to flee and the evidence, so far, is “far from overwhelming.” He again cast doubt on the U.S. charges, saying that there is hostility toward Huawei for competitive reasons or larger geopolitical reasons. 

Ehrcke reminded Martin that a 60-day clock started ticking with Meng’s Dec. 1 arrest for the U.S. to file its extradition case. Meng had arrived at YVR late morning on Cathay Pacific flight 838, on her way to meetings in Mexico, Argentina and France. Instead she was arrested and made a stop at Richmond Hospital to treat hypertension. 

Martin, however, admitted to the judge that he was unaware of Liu’s immigration status, a detail which flummoxed the court the rest of the day. For the sake of bail, Liu was proposed to be the unofficial “jailer” of Meng in the community. Martin described Liu as a “venture capitalist,” and said he would pledge $1 million cash plus $14 million in real estate. Chump change for the daughter of a multibillionaire. 

Liu’s China passport has a multi-entry visa for Canada, to expire in February. He also has a Hong Kong passport. One of Martin’s colleagues rushed to Liu in the gallery front row, behind Meng in the prisoner’s box, to retrieve his travel documents. If his Hong Kong passport was stamped, then he could stay up to six months. 

When that’s up, Martin said, Liu could fly back overseas and re-enter Canada for another six months, apply to the Canadian government for an extension, attain guardian status if their 10-year-old daughter is transferred to a school here. Martin even suggested a work visa could be a solution; Liu had previously worked for Huawei’s Mexican division. 

Federal Crown lawyer John Gibb-Carsley wasn’t buying it.

Media gathers around a pro-Huawei protester outside Meng Wanzhou’s bail hearing on Dec. 10 (Mackin)

He told the court that Liu has no local connection and said the risks remain of Meng fleeing Canada. Even a small risk could have devastating consequences. Meng has access to vast amounts of money and her ordinary life is in China. 

Gibb-Carsley upped the ante: he proposed Liu put up $7.5 million in cash and $7.5 million in property. Still, he admitted, the price of leaving the jurisdiction, is the price of bail. Martin then proposed a cash deposit for her bail and the potential transfer of the Matthews mansion from Liu to Wanzhou. 

The day ended with some mirth. Martin called residency “an elastic concept” and compared the Meng proceedings to the controversy around Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy’s claim that his primary residence was in the Maritimes when he really hung his hat in Ottawa. “I’m not sure that’s a helpful analogy,” Ehrcke quipped. 

Those in the room aware of Canadian politics broke out in laughter. Especially the man to Liu’s left, Huawei Canada’s lobbyist and unsuccessful 2011 Liberal candidate Scott Bradley. 

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Bob Mackin  The second day of the bail

Drama in British Columbia, on two fronts. 

The Dec. 1 Vancouver International Airport arrest of Meng Wanzhou, dubbed the “Huawei Princess” on Chinese social media, sparked a war of words. 

Beijing has warned Canada and the United States, which ultimately wants to try her for fraud, of retaliation for jailing the telecom giant’s chief financial officer. Meng is also the daughter of the multinational company’s multibillionaire founder. 

A Dec. 7 bail hearing that captured global attention included evidence of Meng’s past as a permanent resident of Canada. Her husband Liu Xiaozong is named on property records for two mansions in Vancouver’s richest neighbourhoods. 

Meanwhile, the scandal at the B.C. Legislature unfolds, as Speaker Darryl Plecas emphatically defended calling-in the RCMP to investigate Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, who were suspended with pay on Nov. 20. 

In a Dec. 6 Legislative Assembly Management Committee meeting, Plecas said he had a duty to taxpayers to do due diligence and the RCMP, aided by two special prosecutors, must not be subject to interference from the opposition BC Liberals. 

Shortly after he was appointed speaker in September 2017, Plecas said he received information that he needed to act upon. 

“I felt a great duty to safeguard the integrity of this institution and be very mindful about why we’re all here. That’s to make sure that public dollars are spent appropriately.”

Plecas has proposed a separate forensic audit of James and Lenz’s offices and he vowed to resign if the public does not share his disgust. Lawyers for James and Lenz have not responded for comment. 

Hear highlights of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee. 

Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim headlines. 

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Speaker shifts scandal spotlight back onto suspended officials

Drama in British Columbia, on two fronts.  The

Bob Mackin

A candidate in the last two Vancouver civic elections says nobody from his party has been invited to a meeting to discuss the lack of racial diversity on municipal councils. 

Municipal Candidates for Racial Inclusion’s Cities of Colour is Dec. 8 at the Simon Fraser University Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

“The election results show a troubling absence of elected representatives from racially diverse groups despite large numbers of Black, Indigenous or Person of Color (BIPOC) people living in Metro Vancouver,” said the invitation. “This conspicuous demographic gap triggered social media commentary with the hashtag #CouncilSoWhite.”

Vancouver 1st 2018 election candidates

Jesse Johl, executive director of Vancouver 1st and a two-time unsuccessful city council candidate, said nobody in his party has heard of this group. 

“We had the most-ethnically diverse slate,” Johl told theBreaker. “We had the only black, Jewish mayoral candidate running [Fred Harding]. We’ve got no invite.”

Johl said the conservative-leaning Vancouver 1st boasted the only slate that “reflected the faces of Vancouver.” 

He said racism was not a factor in the outcome. Instead, the well-funded NPA and Vancouver District Labour Council-backed candidates prevented smaller parties and independents from a breakthrough. 

Vancouver 1st’s Jesse Johl

Johl called the post-election #CouncilSoWhite hashtag “unacceptable” and was also critical of the group’s invitation. Municipal Candidates for Racial Inclusion suggests a $10 donation to attend, but states that any white or “non-BIPOC” candidates are not welcome on Dec. 8, because the group wants to “have a discussion amongst ourselves first.”

“If that was ‘council so yellow’ or ‘council so brown,’ would that be acceptable? How is something so blatantly racist so acceptable?” Johl asked.

“Martin Luther King said it best: judge a person by the content of their character, not by the colour of their skin. But we’ve gotten to this virtue-signalling, identity politics to the point where people can’t look past monickers, names and symbols. It’s crazy. People voted the way they voted, at the end of the day, big money, big union money, was the difference.”

The invitation did not include the name of the organizer or a contact phone number. Nobody responded by email for comment. Neither did the workshop facilitator, Natasha Aruliah. 

NPA’s Ken Sim fell 957 votes shy of labour-backed independent Kennedy Stewart in the Vancouver mayoral race. Had Sim won, he would have been the city’s first mayor of Chinese heritage. Eight of the 10 city councillors elected are female, five of whom ran on the NPA ticket. 

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Bob Mackin A candidate in the last two

Bob Mackin 

The Alouette Correctional Centre for Women is a long way from Mexico, where Meng Wanzhou was headed on Dec. 1.

Canadian police, acting on a request from American counterparts, arrested the 46-year-old after she arrived at Vancouver International Airport from Hong Kong.

The chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, the Chinese telecom giant that grossed $92 billion last year, finds herself in the provincial jail in Maple Ridge for another weekend while her lawyer fights for her bail to await an extradition hearing. 

Meng Wanzhou at Russia Calling 2014 (RT)

Unbeknownst to Meng, daughter of multibillionaire Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, a judge in New York issued a warrant for her arrest on Aug. 22. She is wanted in the U.S. for fraud, after allegedly using an unofficial subsidiary, called Skycom, from 2009 to 2014 to act as a decoy so Huawei could do business in Iran, contrary to U.S. and European Union sanctions. 

Meng’s lawyer, David J. Martin, told B.C. Supreme Court Justice William Ehrcke in a Dec. 7 hearing that she will contest the U.S. allegation. In the meantime, he denied that she is a flight risk and he described how she leads a lifestyle that falls within what Vancouverites have come to know as an “astronaut family.”  

“Her loyalty to her father, to Huawei and to China is such that she would never embarrass those entities, which has been said over and over again that Huawei is a national champion of China,” Martin told the court. “She would not flee, she would be an outcast in China if she did, she tells me her father would not recognize her, her colleagues would hold her in contempt, she would be a pariah.”

Martin said Meng — also known as Sabrina Meng and Cathy Meng — came to Vancouver 15 years ago and has a 10-year-old daughter with her husband, Xiaozong Liu. They bought houses in 2009 and 2016, in Dunbar and Shaughnessy, respectively. Only Liu’s name, however, is on the land title for the $16.3 million Matthews Avenue mansion (upper photo) and $5.6 million West 28th Avenue mansion (lower photo). Liu’s profession is identified on one deed as an “investor” and a “marketing developer” on the other. Both mansions are mortgaged by HSBC, the same bank Meng is accused of deceiving. Liu ignored a reporter who asked him for comment during the court’s lunch break.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s husband, Liu Xiaozong, is the only person listed on the registrations for Vancouver mansions on Matthews (upper) and West 28th (lower). (Mackin)

The land registry says Liu bought the Matthews mansion in May 2016. It is on the same side of the street as the former William Shelly mansion, the official residence of United States Consul General since 1946. Google Maps measures the distance between the two properties at just 47 metres. The Liu house is under renovation by Trasolini Construction.

Strategically located, Chinese-owned real estate became a national security issue recently in New York City.

In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States forced the HNA Group Ltd. to sell a Manhattan building four blocks from Trump Tower. One of the HNA tenants was a New York Police Department office involved in protecting President Donald Trump. HNA bought 90% interest in 850 Third after Trump declared his candidacy in 2015, but before Trump won the election in 2016.

Gate of the United States Consul’s Vancouver residence, near the Liu Xiaozong-registered mansion (Mackin)

As for the other Liu-registered house, it is on the corner of West 28th and Crown. Vancouver Police attended the residence on Dec. 9 after a 9-1-1 call about a break-in at 5:30 a.m. Suspects fled the area after being challenged by someone in the house, Const. Jason Doucette told theBreaker. No one was injured or arrested. 

“Officers have collected evidence from the scene and will make attempts to identify those responsible for the break-in,” Doucette said.

Meng had Canadian permanent resident status

Meng, Liu and their daughter normally live in Shenzhen, the world headquarters of Huawei. She also has sons aged 14, 16 and 20 from a previous marriage. One of them lives with his father in Hong Kong, while another attends private school in the Boston area.

Court heard that Meng used to be a permanent resident of Canada, but that status expired in 2009. She also held BC ID, CareCard and social insurance number identification cards. She now tries to spend two-to-three weeks every summer in Vancouver. Among the evidence Martin introduced were family photos, including one from August of this year in a Vancouver park with Liu’s parents. 

Xiaozong Liu, Meng Wanzhou’s husband, outside the Law Courts (Mackin)

Federal Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said Meng is a flight risk, because of her extreme wealth and her habit of avoiding travel to the U.S. since Huawei was subpoenaed by a grand jury in April 2017. No amount of bail can have pull, because Meng has the resources to flee, he said. China, which she calls home, has no extradition treaty with Canada or the U.S.

“The allegation is Skycom is Huawei,” he said. Meng allegedly lied to banks about the subsidiary, in order to move money from Huawei out of countries subject to U.S. and EU sanctions, like Iran, Syria and Sudan. 

Gibb-Carsley pointed to a Reuters story in early 2013 that revealed Huawei’s control of Skycom, and how it attempted to import U.S. computer equipment into Iran. He told the court that several banks asked Huawei after that story whether the allegations about Skycom and Iran were true. 

“Ms. Meng, herself, made misrepresentations to those financial institutions in a form of damage control to the Reuters article,” he said. 

The victim banks were “induced into carrying out transactions that they otherwise would not have completed; this violated the bank’s internal policies, potentially violated U.S. sanction laws and exposed the banks to risk of fines and forfeitures.” 

If extradicted and tried in the U.S., Meng could face up to 30 years in jail. 

Martin, however, said Meng has had no reason to travel to the U.S. AT&T reneged on an agreement to carry Huawei consumer products. Amid a trade war with China, the U.S. government banned bidders from using Huawei products. 

“An entity would have to be tone deaf to not understand the the U.S. had become a hostile place for Huawei to do business and, in essence, the company had abandoned the U.S. market,” Martin said. “Not only Ms. Meng, but the other executives that the U.S. government points to that no longer travel to the U.S. have little reason to travel there.” 

Martin proposed Meng would put her Vancouver real estate and cash forward as a surety, to ensure she doesn’t flee Canada while awaiting an extradition hearing. She would surrender her Hong Kong and China passports and welcome RCMP for random check-up visits while living in the Dunbar house under a round-the-clock surveillance regimen. 

A publication ban was cancelled early in the hearing in the heavily secured courtroom built for the Air India bombing trial in 2002. Nearly all the 150 seats were filled, mainly by media from around the world.

Two men from the Chinese consulate sat in the front row, on the other side of an aisle from where Liu sat with Huawei executives, behind the prisoner’s dock. Liu and Meng gestured at each other when she entered, in relatively good spirits. Meng, dressed in a drab, dark green prison sweatshirt and pants, took sips from a paper cup while scribbling notes on a pad during the legal arguments. 

Outside the Law Courts Dec. 7 during the Meng Wanzhou bail hearing (Mackin)

The hallway was filled with dozens of other curious onlookers who followed the proceedings on large TV screens. Court sheriffs kept busy warning exuberant Mandarin speakers to stop using their mobile phones to snap phtographs in the courthouse. Tech-savvy and fashionably dressed Chinese women in their 20s and 30s crowded the area around the doorway to get a glimpse of Meng, a rare female executive in a country where the inner circle of President Xi Jinping’s Communist administration is all male and few women occupy C-suites at the largest companies.

Court heard that Meng worked her way up from being a secretary at Huawei in 1993 to the deputy chair that she is today.

Unlike the U.S., where Huawei is feared to be part of China’s vast spying infrastructure, Canadian telecoms have embraced the aggressive marketer. Huawei is a research and development partner of Telus and funds a 5G development lab at the University of B.C.

Huawei is even a major advertiser on one of the nation’s dearest cultural institutions, Hockey Night in Canada. 

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Bob Mackin  The Alouette Correctional Centre for Women

Bob Mackin

To some, he’s a saint. To others, he’s a sinner. 

He is Napoleon Gomez Urrutia and his name has been conspicuously absent from the debate over the electoral reform referendum in British Columbia, which ends at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 7. 

Napoleon Gomez Urrutia: Out of Canadian exile and into the Mexican senate, thanks to proportional representation.

Gomez is a B.C. NDP donor who spent more than a decade in Metro Vancouver, as the leader-in-exile of Los Mineros, the biggest Mexican miners’ union. That is, until he returned to Mexico in August to assume a seat in the senate. 

He was not elected, but appointed under that country’s mixed member proportional representation system after the July election of new president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the left-wing National Regeneration Movement (Morena). 

Gomez became a Canadian citizen in 2014 and enjoyed the support of NDP-allied unions, such as USW and Unifor. Early this year, the Morena party leader added him to a list of potential senate appointees, depending on the popular vote.

For many years, Mexican authorities had sought Gomez’s extradition because they were pursuing him for allegedly embezzling US$55 million from a union trust. They gave up when the court refused their application. Efforts to recover the money continue in civil court. 

Gomez has claimed he did no wrong. As a senator, anti-corruption is one of his main causes and he enjoys immunity.

Back to B.C., where the No Proportional Representation B.C. Society has tried to convince voters in the mail-in referendum that ending first past the post elections and adopting proportional representation would empower extreme right-wing parties, like those in Germany and Sweden. Never mind both countries are grappling with mass-migration from Africa and the Middle East and social unrest due to youth unemployment. Issues that wouldn’t easily be solved under first past the post. 

Mexico has been largely ignored, even though it is the closest proportional representation jurisdiction to B.C. 

A search of Tieleman and Anton’s Tweets finds no reference to the Gomez case. 

Why would Tieleman, who is fond of wintertime siestas in Mexico, say anything bad about a man who was a darling of the Left Coast labour scene? 

Why would Anton say anything bad about anyone in the mining industry? After all, Vancouver mining companies (including some with Mexican investments) shovelled millions of dollars to the BC Liberals before the NDP reformed campaign financing last year. 

Gomez is still generating headlines in Mexico. On Nov. 26, Noventa Grados quoted Juan Luis Zuniga, a former Gomez collaborator who claimed the union blackmailed mining companies: pay $20 million, avoid a strike. Zuniga further alleged that he traveled north as a cash courier. 

“We were the ones who made ‘mules’ to take money to Napoleon to Vancouver,” according to a translated quote attributed to Zuniga. “I, for example, went three or four times, each exit was $9,900, because you could not take more, we left four or five, with up to $50,000 of money for Napoleon.”

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Bob Mackin To some, he’s a saint. To