United Front groups in Canada helped Beijing stockpile coronavirus safety supplies

In mid-January, Chinese consulates in Canada and worldwide issued an urgent call. China was concerned that the new coronavirus raging in Wuhan was so deadly and infectious that its nurses and doctors would run out of safety supplies.

It needed personal protective equipment (PPE).

In just six weeks, China imported 2.5 billion pieces of epidemic safety equipment, including over two billion safety masks, Chinese government data shows.

And this raises big concerns on a number of fronts, say critics, including Conservative MP Erin O’Toole.

China was evidently hiding the extent of a pandemic that endangered the world while covertly securing PPE at low prices. This “surreptitious” operation left “the world naked with no supply of PPE,” Jorge Guajardo, Mexico’s former ambassador to Beijing, told Global News.

The result: starting in March, after COVID-19 had circled the globe, countries that provided masks to China in January and February were forced to compete for China’s supply.

By late January, sources in manufacturing and military circles were warning western governments that China seemed to be covertly seizing global PPE supply, O’Toole and Guajardo said.

But leaders in Canada didn’t act, according to O’Toole.

“One source told me in January it became well-known amongst military and emergency services that China was stockpiling masks and basically buying out as many quantities as it could,” he said in an interview with Global News. “And we know, … that senior officials, in the end of January and the early days of February, are equally aware at Public Works Canada, with respect to a run on PPEs.”

An investigation by Global News examines the troubling methods and underground actors used by Beijing to quietly corner the world’s supply of PPE in a state-level operation.

China used diplomatic channels, state-owned businesses and Chinese diaspora community associations that are thought to be increasingly under the influence of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s powerful United Front Work Department (UFWD).

And through clandestine United Front networks run out of Chinese consulates in cities from Vancouver to Toronto to New York to Melbourne to Tokyo, the Communist Party urged millions of “overseas Chinese” to bulk-buy N95 masks in order to ship “back batches of scarce supplies for the motherland.”

As troubling as China’s methods were, the operation looks even worse under a magnifying glass because some organizations seemingly involved in the United Front’s efforts in Canada include members that have previously been monitored or investigated by the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), according to RCMP and CSIS sources.

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