A vocal pro-democracy advocate and critic of the Chinese Communist Party was assaulted outside the Surrey home of his friend, who has been subject to an unusual, two-month long picket by protesters affiliated with an exiled billionaire facing corruption allegations in China.
“I never thought this would have happened to me in Canada,” said Louis Huang Thursday, upon returning from the hospital where doctors assessed fractures to his cheekbone.
A CCTV recording from the Green Timbers neighbourhood home of Huang’s friend Bingchen Gao shows Huang in discussion with people who he says are protesters for billionaire Guo Wengui, aka Miles Kwok, an exiled billionaire who is critical of the Chinese government but also facing allegations of bribery, money laundering and kidnapping back in China.
Huang said he waited outside to smoke before driving Gao to the police station and city hall to lodge further complaints against the protest group, which has persisted since September.
Two protesters approached Huang and an argument ensued. Huang was sucker punched a number of times then kicked in the face while lying on the ground.
“We are investigating an assault that took place there and we have arrested two individuals in connection with that assault. They have been released with a promise to appear in court with undertakings,” said Surrey RCMP spokesperson Elenore Sturko.
“We’ve been engaged since the beginning and talked to people from all the different sides and perspectives,” she said, adding recommendations for criminal charges are being considered.
*Warning: Some readers may find this video distressing*
The protesters, who support Kwok, claim Gao is actually a CCP spy. The protesters claim to be “anti-CCP” as numerous picket signs indicate.
Gao is a Chinese blogger who has been critical of wealthy Chinese such as Kwok, many of whom are alleged to be corrupt but nevertheless have taken hold of so-called overseas Chinese associations in the West that purport to promote ethnic Chinese people’s interests and community engagement.
In November 2018 the BC Supreme Court ruled Gao defamed Miaofei Pan, a Vancouver-area real estate developer and purported community activist who hosted a fundraiser event for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016 at his Vancouver home, which was subsequently subject to a suspected arson in 2019.
Pan is the former chairman of the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations, a Richmond-based organization with close ties to the People’s Republic of China. In 2012, for example, Pan led a CACA delegation to China to join the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission, which is part of the CCP’s United Front department overseeing foreign influence operations, according to U.S. intelligence reviews.
Gao took the position in his blog that wealthy Chinese people such as Pan have sullied the overseas Chinese community and they do not speak for all Chinese people.
Huang said he believes the protesters are conducting a misinformation campaign on behalf of Kwok, who has reportedly organized pro-Donald Trump campaigns and demonstrations as founder of a new political movement called the New Federal State of China. Kwok and Trump supporter and former White House chief strategist Steven Bannon have come together publicly under the cause.
What is unclear at this point is why purported anti-CCP demonstrators would attack Huang, who is also, more clearly, anti-CCP and has led campaigns against Metro Vancouver celebrations of Mao and the CCP.
Also unclear is the possible role of internal CCP politics; Chinese president Xi Jinping is reported to have a far-reaching campaign against corruption.
On Thursday afternoon Glacier Media attempted to ask some protesters about their motives but they professed not to speak English.
Huang told Glacier Media he believes Kwok has turned on pro-democracy supporters such as himself and Gao to regain favour with the CCP. He alleges the protesters are paid and are politically neutral, if not pro-CCP.
Gao was not home Thursday and does not speak English. Huang said Gao is firmly pro-democracy despite allegations from the Kwok camp that he travels freely to and from China — something that wouldn’t be expected of such a dissenter.
Sturko said Surrey RCMP is looking at all angles. She said these are the first arrests in connection with an otherwise legal and peaceful protest.
“We’ve talked with other agencies and spoken to them about information and their handling of situations that have been based on similar circumstances,” said Sturko, declining to elaborate on who local police have reached out to and whether foreign political influence activity is being investigated.
Canada has no laws governing foreign influence activity, unlike most Western jurisdictions. Dialogue on the subject is presently being heard at a House of Commons subcommittee on China.
One neighbour told Glacier Media the neighbourhood’s residents want an injunction against the protesters.
“This is not a protest anymore, it’s harassment,” said the woman, who Glacier Media agreed to keep her name confidential.
The woman doubted whether the protesters were genuine and said Gao is a good and quiet neighbour.