Han Dong, the backbench member of Parliament who quit the Liberal caucus Wednesday night, charged taxpayers for a trip to Vancouver last summer where he met with groups friendly to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He also socialized with a Chinese diplomat.
Global News reported that Dong met secretly in February 2021 with a Chinese diplomat and allegedly suggested China delay freeing Canadian hostages Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor so as not to benefit the federal Conservatives.
Dong denied the allegation and announced he would sit as an independent while he clears his name. On Thursday, Opposition politicians outvoted the Liberal minority 172-149 in favour of a public inquiry into foreign interference in Canadian elections.
Dong, who has represented Don Valley North in Toronto since 2019, disclosed a $2,391.73 bill for transportation from July 28 to Aug. 5, 2022, “to attend meetings with stakeholders about business of the House [of Commons].” He did not charge for accommodation and meals.
Dong’s only other travel expenses are for occasional transportation between his riding and Ottawa.
Nobody from Dong’s office or the Prime Minister’s Office has responded to requests for comment.
Dong is a member of two House of Commons standing committees, Industry and Technology and Public Accounts, neither of which met last summer. He co-chairs the Canada-China Legislative Association and also sits on the Canada-Japan and Canada-Italy inter-parliamentary groups, but they also had no business during the period.
Conservative Kenny Chiu, who was the Steveston-Richmond MP from 2019 to 2021, called Dong’s trip to the West Coast “questionable.”
“If you are not conducting any committee business, or if you are not fulfilling any duty because of your portfolio, then it becomes a bit questionable and weird,” Chiu said. “Because his riding is Don Valley North, which is quite a few thousand kilometres away from Greater Vancouver.”
Chiu wondered how Dong, who was neither a cabinet minister nor a parliamentary secretary, justified his trip to Vancouver.
The Members’ Allowances and Services Manual says MPs are allowed to travel “in the fulfillment of their parliamentary functions only.” Chiu said during his trip to Ottawa in September 2020, he stopped in Toronto to attend a roundtable meeting connected to his duties as the Opposition critic for diversity, inclusion and youth.
There is nothing on Dong’s Facebook or Twitter accounts about the trip. However, the co-founder of the 1029 Crowdfunding Cafe in Richmond and Canadian Chinese Heritage and Future Foundation (CCHFF), published a diary on WeChat with photographs of Dong’s visit to Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby.
Under a headline translated to English as “You came and left gently,” Zhang Jiawei called Dong a friend and contrasted the MP’s visit to Metro Vancouver with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan.
Dong visited the Chinese Canadian Society for Political Engagement (CCSPE) at its clubhouse in a former Dunbar pizzeria on July 29, where he gave founder Kong Qingcun a Queen’s Platinum Jubilee pin. Dong and Kong visited Liberal MP Taleeb Noorhomamed’s Vancouver-Granville riding office and later attended the 20th anniversary banquet of the Canadian Community Service Association (CCSA) at the River Rock Show Theatre. Dong presented CCSA founder Harris Niu the jubilee pin and posed for photographs on stage with a group of people, including China’s Deputy Consul General Wang Chengjun.
Dong’s itinerary that week also included speaking from the stage at the Chinese Cultural Heritage Festival in Swangard Stadium, visiting the headquarters of TWG Tea Canada and meeting with Phantom Creek Estates Winery owner Richter Bai Jiping and Keqin Zu, Vancouver bureau director of Chinese government-funded Phoenix TV.
Dong and his wife, Sophia Qiao, the North American marketing director of Chinese streaming service iQIYI, visited the CCHFF office at the Terminal City Club on Aug. 3. Dong presided over a 15-person roundtable discussion about “politics and community public welfare and charity, especially against anti-Chinese discrimination and Canada's multicultural policies,” according to Jiang’s diary. They dined at the Terminal City Club, met with Niu and Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations chair Wei Renmin and also attended a concert by the Vancouver Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra at the Canadian Flower Winery in Richmond.
In late February, Dong denied support from the Chinese consulate in Toronto helped his nomination to run in the 2019 election. On March 1, the CCSPE website defended Dong, urging “all Chinese public opinion representatives, regardless of party affiliation, to say no to the ‘smearing’ without practical evidence, because if you don't stand up today, you may also become a victim tomorrow.”
Neither Kong nor Jiang responded to emailed queries on Thursday and nobody answered the phone number on the CCHFF website.
Representatives of several Chinese-Canadian groups have appeared before House of Commons committees this month, urging the government to call a public inquiry. They say the Chinese government and its proxies routinely use threats, intimidation and coercion against the diverse diaspora.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instead hired former governor general David Johnston as a special rapporteur and engaged two national security committees to study the issue.
Bill Chu, of the Canadian Concern Group on the Chinese Communist Party’s Human Rights Violation, testified March 10 that the CCP intentionally confuses references to the party, China the state and Chinese people in order to make bogus claims of racism.
“The purposes are simply to silence criticisms against the CCP by equating that as criticisms of all Chinese and also to rouse up a distorted sense of nationalism among all Chinese, including the diaspora,” Chu told MPs.