MPs are using dangerous China-owned apps to reach out to Canadians

In 2017, the Chinese government put into place a law forcing all Chinese companies to give user data, upon request.

Some of Canada's own high-ranking government officials are guilty of using Chinese-government owned apps which pose a national security risk, and yet no one seems to mind.

Yesterday, it was discovered by Breaker News that Minister of Digital Government Joyce Murray was using WeChat to spread Liberal propaganda and "a real estate-driven campaign" to sue a Global News reporter for "false reporting."

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh made headlines for his "relatable" use of Tik Tok during the 2019 election. It was apart of a late-election push for Singh, who had made strong back-to-back debate performances, appearing as a strong third-party option for voters tired of Canada's two largest parties.

Using Tik Tok, though, is not all fun and games. In 2017, the Chinese government put into place a law forcing all Chinese companies to give user data, upon request.

This allows a hostile foreign government to collect data from millions of users across Canada and the United States. So why are we giving them a free pass for using apps that are essentially spying on Canadians?

MPs such as Joyce Murray and New Democrat Party Leader Jagmeet Singh use apps like WeChat and TikTok to broaden their appeal, but this comes at a serious risk. A report from The Guardian found that Tik Tok was censoring videos critical of the Communist Party, the Tienanmen Square Massacre, the Tibetan independence movement, and the Hong Kong protests.

While using an app is not an endorsement of the Chinese government, it's at the very least negligent to use an app that US Senators have called for formal investigations against.

The problem of MPs using China-owned apps appears to be isolated to the Vancouver-area, as these apps, specifically WeChat, are used to communicate with the massive Chinese voting block. But this, again, can come with serious consequences.

The 2019 election saw Liberal candidate for Burnaby South, Karen Wang, step down after posting a message on WeChat urging voters to support her as the "only candidate of Chinese origin," pushing a message of voting based on ethnicity, also referring to her opponent Jagmeet Singh, as being of "Indian origin."

"If we can increase the voting rate, as the only Chinese candidate in this riding, if I can garner 16,000 votes I will easily win the byelection, control the election race and make history! My opponent in this byelection is the NDP candidate Singh of Indian descent," the message read.

Wang would later say her "My choice of words wasn’t well-considered."

WeChat was, if only for a brief moment, in the hotseat during the 2019 Canadian election cycle. While WeChat says it does not accept or sell political advertisements, CTV News screenshots of what looked to be Liberal advertisements pushing the gun reform platform. The ad clearly notes that the ad was authorized by Jean Yip, Liberal MP for Scarborough Agincourt.

Yip would later confirm that they shared the advertisement on WeChat, but that the ad was not paid for.

“50 per cent of our constituents use this platform as a form of communication,” Elizabeth Betowski, Yip’s campaign manager, told CTVNews, saying: "This wasn’t a paid advertisement, but it was posted to several groups."

Not selling ads in WeChat shouldn't be enough to appease Canadians. It's time for Canadians to demand that our elected officials not use apps designed to undermine our privacy.