China warns Canada against granting Hong Kongers sanctuary

A top Chinese diplomat warned Canada Thursday against granting asylum to Hong Kong democracy protesters, adding that doing so could jeopardize the “health and safety” of Canadians living in the southern Chinese financial hub.

The remarks by Cong Peiwu, Beijing’s Ottawa envoy, prompted a rebuke from Canada’s foreign minister, further escalating tensions between the two countries.

Cong was responding to reports that a Hong Kong couple who took part in last year’s huge and sometimes violent protests had been granted refugee status.

The landmark decision makes it likely other Hong Kongers will be given sanctuary in Canada, which has emerged as a top destination for those fleeing Beijing’s crackdown.

“We strongly urge the Canadian side not (to) grant so-called political asylum to those violent criminals in Hong Kong because it is the interference in China’s domestic affairs. And certainly, it will embolden those violent criminals,” Cong said in a video press conference.

“So if the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport-holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong SAR, you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes,” Cong said.

When asked by reporters if that latter comment was a threat, Cong replied: “That’s your interpretation.”

Canada’s Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne described Cong’s comments as “totally unacceptable and disturbing”.

“I have instructed Global Affairs to call the ambassador in to make clear in no uncertain terms that Canada will always stand up for human rights and the rights of Canadians around the world,” he said in a statement carried by the Globe and Mail and other Canadian news outlets.

China and Canada are marking 50 years since they forged diplomatic ties — but those relations are deeply strained.

Ties plummeted following Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and daughter of its founder.

Meng was arrested on a US warrant in December 2018 during a stopover in Vancouver and is charged with bank fraud related to violations of US sanctions against Iran. 

She has been fighting extradition ever since.

Canadian former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested in China on spying charges soon afterwards, disappearing into Beijing’s opaque judicial system.

Western governments see the detention of the two Canadians as direct retaliation by Beijing. 

On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hit out at Beijing for what he said was its “coercive diplomacy” as well as the ongoing crackdowns in Hong Kong and on Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. 

Cong rejected Trudeau’s comments at his Thursday press conference. 

“There is no coercive diplomacy on the Chinese side,” he said.

“The Hong Kong issue and the Xinjiang-related issue are not about the issue of human rights. They are purely about internal affairs of China, which brooks no interference from the outside,” he added.


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Bogus animal rescue Facebook page poses as genuine sanctuary to lure donations

The owner of a Tasmanian animal shelter says she plans to involve police over a Facebook page using dozens of photos of the animals at her sanctuary to lure donations from well-meaning people.

Brightside Farm Sanctuary’s Emma Haswell said she was contacted by someone on social media who had noticed a woman on Facebook posting the photos.

She said she could not believe what was happening.

“I got two messages from people who were friends with this woman on Facebook and they sent me screenshots,” she said.

“The screenshots were of animals I’ve rescued and rehabilitated and rehomed with sometimes new names, sometimes the name I gave them and they were up for virtual adoption.

“It had a range of prices you could pay per month and bank account details.”

Photos of Tipsy from Brightside Farm Sanctuary appeared on Facebook with the caption “Queen Grace”.(Supplied)

Ms Haswell, who has run the shelter in Tasmania’s south-east for about 15 years, said sometimes the animal pictures had dramatic stories about how they had been rescued.

“One example is she found a photo from the Brightside Facebook page from about 4 or 5 years ago of a photo of a whole lot of puppy farm dogs that I rescued that were in crates on the back of a ute,” she said.

“She put them up saying she had been to her vet this week and collected all these dogs that were going to be euthanised due to people panicking and wanting to get rid of them due to coronavirus.”

Ms Haswell said she found photos of a kelpie she rescued called Tipsy.

“I put nine months into rehabilitating her and she made it and she’s thriving.

Emma Haswell stands next to cattle at Brightside Farm Sanctuary
Emma Haswell says she plans to use screenshots taken from the page in a complaint to police.(ABC News: Jessica Hayes)

Ms Haswell said the page’s creator had taken “all the images of Tipsy and renamed her Queen Grace, all pictures of the dog on my bed and put them up as her dog she’s rescued and a terrible sob story saying ‘please donate to me to help me feed her’.

“It’s not just Brightside. It’s smaller wildlife organisations.”

Ms Haswell said she had collected information to make a formal complaint to Tasmania Police.

Hundreds of ‘fake charity’ reports

Earlier this year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) told the ABC they had received dozens of reports of bushfire-related scams.

Screenshot from Brightside Farm Sanctuary of person using photos
The Facebook page’s creator wrote a post thanking those who had sent money.(Facebook)

According to the ACCC’s Scamwatch website, there had been 829 reports of ‘fake charities’ this year, with more than $113,000 lost.

In 2019, there were 1167 reports and $411,588 in reported losses.

“Fake charities try to take advantage of your generosity and compassion for others in need,” it said.

“Scammers will steal your money by posing as a genuine charity.

“Not only do these scams cost you money, they also divert much needed donations away from legitimate charities and causes.”

The Facebook page posting Brightside Farm Sanctuary’s photos has been deleted.

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