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Friday, December 23, 2005

Big holes in the story

Interesting tale about Haiyang Zhang in The Globe and Mail: A job given, then taken away: CSIS feared Zhang had ties to spies. There are some really glaring omissions in this story. To recap, Zhang, 42, was hired by the Privy Council, "the elite federal agency that advises the Prime Minister and cabinet" on Nov. 28, 2003 and then fired six months later on Nov. 28. CSIS had concluded that she was a threat to national security because of her background, working for a Chinese news service from 1989 to 1992. More importantly--though the story tends to treat this as an afterthought--CSIS was "concerned that [she appeared] to maintain regular contact with foreign representatives who may be involved in intelligence collection activities."

The first glaring omission in the story is that it fails to inform us what Haiyang Zhang was hired to do. The title talks about a job, but the story doesn't say what job. Next, the name of the news service she worked for in China is not mentioned. That is significant because news agencies in China are pretty much propaganda tools of the government. Then the Globe piece fails to tell us whether Zhang is a Canadian citizen. It says she married a Canadian overseas, it says she immigrated here in 1995, it says she attended Canada Day ceremonies on Parliament Hill that same year, it goes to great length to tell us she loves this country, but nowhere does it say whether she is a citizen. And the piece also talks about a company she runs, a "management consulting business in Ottawa" which it is inferred helps "Canadian businesses develop markets in China," but does not name the company. And lastly, a really gaping hole here is some important background; it was widely reported in June that an employee of the Chinese Consulate in Sydney, Chen Yonglin, defected and made the claim that China has a network of spies in Canada about a 1,000 strong, a claim that was backed up by another defector Hao Fengjun. The omission is doubly noticeable because the Globe ran a comment piece on June 29 by University of Toronto professor and security expert Wesley Wark on page A17 "The Chinese spies among us. Defectors' tales from Australia should remind Ottawa that the dragon isn't friendly." Here's an excerpt:

Our Prime Minister visited Beijing in January with a friendly China in mind, and a hope for greater trade relations. It now turns out he had another message for the Chinese government: Cut out the spying in Canada.

That message wasn't for public ears, reminding us that there is still something called secret diplomacy. But recent events in Australia have forced out the story.

Note: The Globe appears to have run only the one piece on Chen Yonglin.

This Haiyang Zhang story makes me feel a whole lot better about CSIS, and a whole lot worse about the Globe.

Posted by Kevin Steel on December 23, 2005 in International Affairs | Permalink


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This is a terrible thing. She looks like a really nice person and she speaks three languages really well! Plus a woman, plus a minority. Yet for some reason, our government's security apparatus took up against her - a reason they aren't even telling the Globe and Mail newspaper! A reason they probably told the Security Intelligence Review Committee, but a reason they certainly did not tell the Public Service Staff Relations people. We were not told what her degrees are, or what her PCO work was, but we have excellent detail on her love for this great land. You know what? I wonder if they forgot to give her the lecture about people and organizations to avoid, and contacts that must be immediately reported.

Posted by: Billy B. ByTown | 2005-12-23 11:41:22 AM

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