Harassment and Intimidation of Individuals in Canada Working on China-related Human Rights Concerns

Date: May 12, 2020
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Fully releasable (ATIP)? Yes
Branch / Agency: NSCB/PS

Issue: The Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China and Amnesty International Canada have released a report which outlines an organized and sustained campaign of intimidation and harassment aimed at activists working on China-related human rights issues in Canada.

Proposed Response:


On Tuesday May 12, 2020, Amnesty International and the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China will release a public report in an online news conference titled “Harassment and Intimidation of People in Canada, working on China-related human rights concerns.” The authors of the report suggest that Canadian officials are worried about inflaming tensions by raising human rights concerns with the Chinese government. The report outlines a series of incidents of harassment, intimidation, as well as actions aimed at challenging democratic rights and freedom of expression, of association and of religion or belief in Canada. The activities touch on a range of group/interests, including pro-democracy, Hong Kong, Tibet, Uyghurs, and Falun Gong movements.

The Coalition calls on the “Canadian government [to] treat this issue with increased urgency, as it has resulted in insecurity and fear for human rights defenders in Canada working on Chinese human rights issues, as well as an unacceptable chilling effect on the exercise of free expression and other civil liberties and fundamental freedoms in the country.” The report contains a number of recommendations, including for Canadian authorities to appoint a centralized focal point within the government to be the primary front-line contact for individuals and groups facing harassment and intimidation linked to activism on human rights concerns in China. The report also recommends that the Canadian government should examine legislation adopted in other jurisdictions aimed at countering foreign interference and consider enacting similar legislation in Canada.

Other reports have pointed to similar activity. For example, the 2019 Annual Report of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians outlined foreign interference activities, including the targeting of certain communities by state actors. The report pointed to China and Russia as being particularly active in Canada and made a number of recommendations for Canada to bolster its response to the threat of foreign interference. The targeting and harassment of specific communities in Canada is considered to be a form of foreign interference.

Over the years, CSIS has seen multiple instances of foreign states targeting specific communities in Canada. The scope of potential foreign interference activities can be broad, encompassing a range of techniques that are familiar to intelligence agencies. These include: human intelligence operations, the use of state-sponsored or foreign influenced media, and the use of sophisticated cyber tools.

The Government of Canada’s security and intelligence community is combatting these threats within their respective mandates. For example, CSIS has longstanding investigations into foreign interference threat activities targeting democratic processes and institutions across Canada. The provision of CSIS intelligence and assessments to senior levels of government allows for informed decision making when responding to and developing policies to address these threats. Likewise, the RCMP has a broad, multi-faceted mandate that allows it to investigate, and prevent foreign interference drawing upon various legislation.

Prepared by: NSOD
Approved by: Dominic Rochon, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, 613-990-4976 (pending)

Date modified: