My column this week is about how Canada’s Unhappiest City owes much of its foul mood to Ottawa’s disastrous courtship of China’s lucre-laden princelings (National Post, Ottawa Citizen) through the scandalous Immigrant Investor Program. It’s been an elaborate swindle from the beginning, and last year it accounted for perhaps half the dollar value of Vancouver’s detached-housing sales.
The day my column appeared, Beijing’s dreaded Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) published a Most Wanted poster containing the names and faces of 100 alleged scoundrels on the lam – 26 are said to have fled to Canada. The CCDI wants foreign governments to send the fugitives home to face charges of embezzlement, bribe-taking, corruption, money laundering, and so on. Beijing’s Operation Skynet, which is part fraud-squad mobilization, part party purge and part overseas muscle-flexing shakedown, has dispatched its agents to rummage through Unhappy Vancouver’s real estate transaction records.
Hours later, Vancouver Mayor Gregor “Happy Planet” Robertson got entangled in it with the news that the Harbin Communist Party official Qu Zhang Mingjie has been imprisoned on corruption charges related to the sale of state assets at “fire sale prices.” Qu Zhang Mingjie is the mother of the woman Robertson calls his sweetheart – the pop star Wanting Qu, who was appointed Tourism Vancouver’s “ambassador” to China two years ago after hooking up with Mayor Robertson as an “influencer” in a vote-fishing social media campaign. Wanting boasts about 500,000 followers on China’s Facebook-like Weibo network.
Beijing’s Skynet operation is a follow-up to last year’s “Fox Hunt” campaign, which is reported to have identified 428 scamps who absconded to more than 60 countries. Nearly half the party bigshots, state executives and other such swells on that list turned themselves in. This week’s Most Wanted list, which deftly avoids naming anyone too-embarrassingly prominent, is in no small way a Beijing maneuver to arm-twist enforcement collaboration from Canada, the U.S., Australia and other countries that have sensibly avoided signing extradition treaties with the Chinese police state.
Canada’s unhappy affair with China’s princeling millionaires
. . . By the time Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were settling into their majority in 2011, there were 300,000 Canadian passport holders in Hong Kong and another 20,000 or so in Mainland China.
During the 21st century’s first decade, more than 18,000 Chinese state-enterprise executives were busted for siphoning money out of China in fake joint ventures, underground money shops masquerading as overseas-study agencies, phony service gambits and dummy offshore subsidiary accounts. The People’s Bank of China reckons that $126 billion was pilfered in these ways during that decade, and Canadian real estate, especially property in Metro Vancouver, was one of the main places the money was ending up.
Thus the unhappiness, all occurring right under Parliament’s nose. To give you a sense of how absurdly the taboo had throttled Canadian debates it’s instructive to recall the rubbish that was uttered when Harper finally got around to shutting it all down last year with a resolve to start from scratch. Vancouver MP Don Davies, the New Democrats’ international trade critic, accused the government of “damaging Canada’s economy and trade relationships.” Then there was Liberal warhorse John McCallum (Markham—Unionville): “Are Conservatives inadvertently picking on Chinese people?”
About that taboo, this is from a directly related column I wrote last August: The Continuing Corruption from Beijing’s Dirty Money:
An enduring feature of dirty-money corruption is that it entrenches itself in a society in inverse proportion to a willingness to talk openly about it. Much credit is owed, then, to those brave Chinese-Canadians in Vancouver who are now confronting the ugly and debate-squashing insinuations of “sinophobia” that await anyone who dares to draw the connection between Chinese lucre and the city’s sky-high property prices.
The public debates leading up to Harper’s 2012 decision to bar Chinese state-owned enterprises from taking over Canadian oil companies were similarly marred by the “sinophobia” slur, in that instance by the disingenuous conflation of legitimate concerns about Beijing’s acquisition of key Canadian energy-sector spigots with raw bigotries about Chinese people. . .