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'Free Meng' event featuring Green MP descends into infighting, conspiracy theories

NDP MP Niki Ashton, who was heavily criticized for agreeing to join the panel, unexpectedly dropped out of the panel at the last second.

Noah David Alter Toronto
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An online event held Tuesday evening "Zoom to Free Meng Wanzhou" ended with infighting as viewers and a panelist turned on Green Party MP Paul Manly.

The event featured criticism of Canada's decision to detain Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei CEO who was arrested in Vancouver airport in 2019. She is facing extradition to the United States on charges of lying to HSBC executives about violating US trade sanctions against Iran. Many analysts have suggested that President Trump is using her as a bargaining chip to advance American economic and foreign policy interests against the Chinese government.

The side chat for the viewers was filled with conspiracy theories surrounding the United States, Canada, China, and various human rights organizations. Participants variously described Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland as "Nazis," accused them of promoting a "Zionist foreign [policy]," and suggested that the human rights organization "Amnesty International is controlled by the CIA." A number of viewers promoted Chinese policy in Tibet, with one suggesting that Tibet was "liberated from slavery" while another posted a link to an hour-long YouTube video sympathetic to China's continued control of Tibet.

The event was hosted by a variety of organizations and presented by Bianca Mugyenyi, who suggested during her opening speech that the Five Eyes, an intelligence network consisting of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, are "settler-colonial" nations “stoking conflict with China." Mugyenyi acknowledged outrage from conservatives over the panel discussion by thanking them for their "free publicity."

The first panelist to speak was criminal defense lawyer John Philpott, who argued that Canada's arrest of Wanzhou was unjust on legal grounds. He also said that the "US and Canada should watch out" lest their current policies toward China lead to war.

Union leader Cathy Walker and McMaster economist Atif Kubusi suggested in their presentations that Canadian workers benefit from free trade with China, a controversial assertion which has been disputed by multiple studies and reports. One study published by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards claimed that free trade with China has been responsible for over one in five lost manufacturing jobs in Canada, over 100,000, between 2001 and 2011. Walker and Kubusi argued that Wanzhou's detention harms Canada's trade relationship with China.

Walker also suggested that Wanzhou's arrest contributes to rising "Sinophobia" in Canada, a term used to describe anti-Chinese prejudice, but did not provide any evidence to support her claim.

A self-described "writer, activist, and teacher" named K.J. Noh provided the most acerbic speech, accusing Canada of leading itself down the road of becoming an "international pariah" and describing Meng Wanzhou's "kidnapping" as "an act of infamy, misogyny, and thuggery." He spent most of his time condemning the United States, however, which he accused of "civil subversion" in China, specifically in regard to their "delegitimation [sic] efforts in Hong Kong," and "legal warfare" through the passage of legislation. He also suggested that Huawei is targeted by the US government because it fights against NSA surveillance.

Most shockingly, however, Noh descended into conspiracy theories himself and described accusations of "human rights abuses," the existence of "concentration camps," discussions of wrongdoing in Hong Kong, and the belief that China has harmed the United States economically as products of "information warfare" against China. Noh has written articles for the Centre for Research on Globalization, a conspiracy theorist website which has accused Israel of orchestrating 9/11, claimed that "Zionists" control America and are seeking to conquer the region between Cairo and Baghdad, denied the Bosnian genocide, and accused the United States of using nuclear weapons against Iraq and Afghanistan, among other things.

NDP MP Niki Ashton, who was heavily criticized for agreeing to join the panel, unexpectedly dropped out of the panel at the last second but had a statement delivered on her behalf. She criticized critics of China for engaging in "red-baiting, dog whistle politics" and joined other panelists in expressing concern over Sinophobia. She also suggested that we are "entering a new cold war" and said that "now more than ever we need to be engaging with China" as we enter the post-coronavirus world.

Green Party MP Paul Manly did speak at the panel, however, where he criticized China's human rights record, stating that he only supported freeing Wanzhou so that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor could have their release secured. Kovrig and Spavor, commonly referred to as "the two Michaels," are Canadian citizens who were arbitrarily detained in China shortly following Wanzhou's arrest.

Manly's comments were not welcomed by the chat, with one viewer disparaging him as a "pro-imperialist doublespeaker," while another described it as "[further] proof that the Green Party is just another wing of the Conservative Party." One audience question which was read out by the hostess during Q&A accused Manly of "aligning with the Conservative's Sinophobic campaign" for voting in favour of a Conservative Party motion criticizing China last week. Manly stood by his decision and his comments.

Manly's critics were not limited to the audience, however, with fellow panelist K.J. Noh jumping in to lambast Manly. Noh accused Manly of "lying," "virtue signaling," "Sinophobia," and "China-bashing."

"There is no truth of any of the allegations you are making about China," Noh stated. "You may be referring to the lies spread by... the World Uyghur Congress," an international human rights organization which raises awareness of China's ongoing genocide against the Uyghur minority in the northwestern region of East Turkestan.

"You have to stop lying and spreading this propaganda," Noh said. He further accused Manly of "fanning the flames of Sinophobia and creating harm and pain and damage to the Chinese communities who are suffering from this incredible racism."

Noh finished by criticizing Manly for using the word "genocide" to describe China's actions in East Turkestan despite Manly never describing it as such. The panelist continued to promote conspiracy theories by asserting that Canadian troops committed genocide against China, claiming that two of his family members were murdered, apparently by Canadians.

MP Manly defended himself by stating that he "never used the word 'genocide' once" to describe China's policy against the Uyghurs, despite the conclusion of the Parliamentary International Human Rights committee. Manly went on describe various human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government while insisting that he would not describe their actions as genocidal.

The Post Millennial attempted to submit a question but was not permitted by the hostess.

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