Canadian Investment in China at Risk of Complicity in Human Rights Abuses, Experts Warn | Experts call for decoupling with China, as Canadians are unknowingly complicit in China's human rights abuses when Ottawa ...

Canadian Investment in China at Risk of Complicity in Human Rights Abuses, Experts Warn

Canadian Investment in China at Risk of Complicity in Human Rights Abuses, Experts Warn

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Experts call for decoupling with China, as Canadians are unknowingly complicit in China’s human rights abuses when Ottawa invests in Chinese firms that are supporting the regime’s repressions, a House committee heard from testimonies.

A recent report from the UK-based NGO Hong Kong Watch said that at least three federal and six provincial pension funds—including the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB)—have invested in Morgan Stanley indices that include 12 Chinese companies involved in Beijing’s forced labour and internment campaigns targeting the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang Province.

“China is now using advanced technology surveillance equipment against the Uyghur people, but also in Tibet, Mongolia, and against members of Christian house churches across China,” Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, senior fellow at the University of Ottawa, told MPs in the House Canada-China committee on Dec. 6.

“What would Canadians think if they knew that the CPPIB has more than a billion of their dollars invested in Tencent, which owns WeChat, which is being used to monitor and censor the communications of Uyghurs, Tibetans, and zero-COVID protesters?”

McCuaig-Johnston also called out other Chinese companies involved in Beijing’s repressions, including Alibaba, which makes video cameras that she said are used to censor Uyghurs in indoctrination camps and prisons.

Neusoft, a Chinese tech firm in which CCPIB and Quebec’s Caisse de Depot pension fund reportedly have investments, has also been asked by Beijing “to build a system to target journalists, migrant women, and international students so that public security authorities can quickly locate them and obstruct their work,” according to McCuaig-Johnston.

“We’re often told by CPPIB that the board invests in companies, not in countries. But when Chinese authorities ask a company to design even more repressive surveillance equipment to use against certain categories of citizens, that argument falls apart,” she said.

“Companies in China fall under government direction, not just market forces, and they now all have Communist Party committees that are increasingly active in decision making.”

Complicit Through Investment

Dr. Charles Burton, senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, also noted that Canadian investments in China will also likely be fuelling the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) global influence operation and geostrategic ambition.

“The People’s Republic of China, Chinese Communist Party regime is an integrated party-state-military-security-industrial complex, under which, as they put it: the party’s leadership is absolute, powerful, comprehensive, and unified,” Burton said.

“So all business enterprises in China are subject to the direction and coordination by the Chinese Communist Party, and are able to be deployed for non-commercial regime strategic purposes, and we see a lot of this, unfortunately. There are no Chinese industrial commercial enterprises existing independently from China’s party state.”

Burton pointed to major Chinese firms like Huawei, which, though not deemed as state-owned enterprises, are “still integral components of China’s Communist Party regime,” and it is therefore banned from participating in Canada’s 5G telecommunications network. In turn, he said Chinese enterprises can also draw on Chinese military and intelligence services to obtain technology and data to their commercial advantage, including to conduct economic espionage.

Overall, the integrated nature of the Chinese regime allows Beijing to mobilize businesses to further its purposes, such as technology transfer, espionage, and geostrategic advantage, according to Burton, who pointed to several examples of Beijing using economic coercion to pressure foreign governments into complying with its non-economic demands.

“Investment by Canada in Chinese business carries the risk of our becoming complicit in all of these things that I’ve mentioned above, even if rigorous due diligence is done before investment is made.”


McCuaig-Johnston provided several recommendations to remedy the situation, with the first being the creation of an entity list to prohibit Canadian investment in named Chinese genocide and forced labor companies.

Canadian pension and university funds must increase transparency about their investments in China and allow discussion with civil society about their investments.

“If a Chinese surveillance company wants a confidentiality, CPPIB respects that and it does not publish information that is commercially sensitive in some circumstances—these practices obscure investments that are harming human rights,” McCuaig-Johnston said.

She also recommended that a higher ethic bar be set for Crown Corporations and that the government identify human rights as a principal concern. Its Code of Ethics should be mandated by the government, whether federal or provincial.

Lastly, she urged that the pension funds take into consideration the economic and geopolitical risks regarding Chinese investments, including the tech sector, real estate, unexpected regulations, and Beijing’s threats against regional allies like Taiwan.

Andrew Chen Follow Andrew Chen is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.

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