B.C. politician breaks silence: China detained me, is interfering ‘in our democracy’

A veteran Chinese-Canadian politician is coming forward to reveal that upon landing at the Shanghai airport in November 2015, Chinese authorities improperly detained him, separated him from his wife for eight hours, confiscated and searched his B.C. government phone and accused him of “endangering national security” before cancelling his visa and ordering him to fly back to Canada.

And since his detention, he said, China’s interference in Canadian society has increased in myriad ways, including aggressive attempts to influence our political system and elected leaders, control Chinese-Canadian immigrants, and silence all criticism of Beijing’s policies.

Richard Lee, the B.C. Liberal MLA for Burnaby from 2001 to 2017, provided Global News with a letter outlining his allegations, sent on Jan. 1, 2019, to then-foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Lee’s letter says he had planned to go public with his story after returning to Vancouver from Shanghai, but decided not to “in consideration of the potential damage to the relationship between China and Canada.”

“I was deputy speaker of B.C. government, so if I call a press conference, at that time the relationship [between Canada and China], things are going well,” Lee said in an interview. “So a situation like this could cause a lot of problems.”

But since 2015, Lee claims he has seen increasing interference in Canada’s political system by China’s government, including private warnings from consular officials that Canadian politicians refrain from speaking out on issues that might anger China.

And after China jailed Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on vague national security grounds in late 2018, Lee says he felt reminded of the injustice in his own case.

“I was accused of endangering China’s national security,” Lee said.“So my point is, it could happen to anyone. If someone in Canada does something not to China’s liking, your visa will be cancelled. It’s a serious situation.”

He decided to put his case on the record with his letter emailed to China’s then-ambassador Lu Shaye and Freeland, and ‘CCed to Trudeau, and Canada’s then-justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould.

About a year later, Lee had not received any response from Canada’s government, until Global News started to investigate his story.

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