OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it “unacceptable” that a Chinese social media group run by an aide to a cabinet minister was used to promote a fundraiser to sue a journalist who reported on the Chinese government.
The post appeared in a group on WeChat, a Chinese social media platform. The group is run by an aide to Digital Government Minister Joyce Murray as a community outreach channel. The post in question linked to a fundraiser for a lawsuit against Global News for a report on the Chinese government’s stockpiling of personal protective equipment overseas, including in Canada.
The link was not posted by Murray’s staff, and Murray’s office says the person who posted it has been removed from the WeChat group. It was first reported by Vancouver news site The Breaker.
In Tuesday’s question period, Trudeau condemned the WeChat post after being challenged on it by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
“Attacking the integrity of hard working journalists is absolutely unacceptable,” Trudeau said. “The individual who posted this link on this particular group is no longer a member of this group and is not affiliated with the electoral district association in question.”
Murray represents the riding of Vancouver Quadra, which covers Vancouver’s west side and the University of British Columbia.
The Global News story reported that in January, China was quietly buying up protective equipment such as N95 masks in Canada and other countries, and sending them back to China. The story reported the effort was run through clandestine networks controlled by China’s United Front Works Department.
The WeChat post linked to a site run by the “Maple Leafs Anti-Racism Actions Association” that seeks to raise money for a class action lawsuit against Global News. It alleges the story “was written to intentionally cause harm to the character of the Chinese-Canadian community,” and says the lawsuit’s aim is to demand an apology from the journalist and compensation for damages.
This particular post was unacceptable and in no way reflects the Minister’s views
A statement from Murray’s office noted that WeChat “is a social media tool used to engage members of the Chinese Canadian community.”
“The views shared by participants do not necessarily reflect those of Minister Murray,” the statement said. “This particular post was unacceptable and in no way reflects the Minister’s views. Participation in this group is guided by posted guidelines and a disclaimer. In this case, guidelines were not followed and the individual who posted is no longer in this group.”
In its own report on the WeChat group, Global News said it stands by the story and is “increasingly concerned by what appears to be an organized effort to discredit our journalist, our reporting and our news division as we investigate the serious issue of foreign influence in Canadian affairs.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020