A British Columbia mayor is calling out an annual mayor’s convention in the province for accepting a cash sponsorship from the Chinese regime, the only non-Canadian sponsor of the event.
The Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM), which describes itself as an “advocate for local government in British Columbia” on its Twitter page, holds an annual convention for B.C.’s mayors and councillors. The event lists the consulate-general of the People’s Republic of China in Vancouver as one of the reception sponsors.
In a letter to the UBCM, Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West condemned the sponsorship and called on the union to reconsider allowing the Chinese consulate-general to host the reception, to be held in Vancouver in September.
“To state it plainly: the Government of China is engaged in a number of actions that are hostile to our country’s interests and the interests of every Canadian, and are completely at odds with our values, the rule of law, and the very principles that we are all elected to uphold,” West wrote.
According to a report from The Province, the Chinese regime not only sponsors the reception, but also pays a sponsorship fee to the UBCM.
“They give the UBCM a sponsorship to be listed in the program,” Arjun Singh, UBCM president and a Kamloops city councillor, said in the article. “They obviously provide UBCM some money as a sponsor that’s over and above the cost of the reception.”
The Province article noted a sponsorship fee costing $6,000 given by an anonymous official not authorized to speak on the matter. The UBCM website says the Chinese consul-general has been sponsoring the reception for the annual gathering since 2013.
In his letter, West critically questioned the UBCM for accepting money from the Chinese regime, saying the sponsorship is a way for Beijing “to grow their soft power and influence and is something of a propaganda victory for them” at the cost of the union.
“When the UBCM makes a decision about who they accept financial contributions from in exchange for receptions with locally elected officials, they are also making a statement about themselves,” he said.
“I remain thoroughly unconvinced that there is any value in this relationship that outweighs the significant harm done by the message it sends about how easily our principles can be dispensed with.”
West noted the case of the two Canadians who have been detained in China since last December. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were detained in a move that is widely seen as retaliation over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on behalf of the United States.
Meng’s detention has also led to a rash of trade disputes between the two countries, which includes a ban by China on Canadian canola imports from earlier this year, and a more recent ban affecting meat imports.
The detention of Kovrig and Spavor and the escalating trade dispute will likely be raised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with other member states at the G20 meeting in Japan this week. It is expected that U.S. President Donald Trump will raise the issue directly with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Canada’s behalf at the summit.
In his June 12 letter, West also brought up the recent protests in Hong Kong, where hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to oppose a now-shelved extradition bill with the Chinese regime. The protests began after Chief Executive Carrie Lam tried to push the legislation through, which would have allowed some criminals to be put on trial in mainland China, a step seen by many as curbing protections in Hong Kong’s legal system.
Singh told The Province this is not the first time the UBCM executive has been criticized for allowing communist China to sponsor the reception.
“We had a really robust and long discussion about it,” he said. “The UBCM decided it’s important to allow it to continue.”
But West strongly believes the union should not be accepting money from Beijing, and he said he’s been asked to tone down his criticism of the regime or risk losing support for his community.
“Since I have started speaking out, a message has been sent to me that I could be putting at risk support for my community, and I think that is really concerning. I think we are elected to speak out on behalf of our constituents,” he told Global News.
“I had a message sent to me that there are a lot of people unhappy with me.”
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Author: Margaret Wollensak