In June, the Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, a paper founded to “not stay silent in the face of unreasonable restrictions and unfair treatment,” was forced to shut down by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under its National Security Law.
One might think the CCP’s style of harsh censorship and revisionist history wouldn’t extend into Canada, but Chinese-language media inside Canada has already faced censorship by mainland China.
Kenneth Yau, a radio talk-show host in Toronto. was fired because of his criticism of a pro-China community leader.
Yau, who often takes a critical stance toward China, was fired by Fairchild Radio’s AM1430 in 2019, which the station said was because of “lots of complaints about his attitude and tone” and not because of his criticism.
Anita Lee, a host with Fairchild’s AM1470 in Vancouver, was fired for supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and playing the pro-democracy anthem Glory to Hong Kong on the air.
Fairchild is partly owned by TVB, a Hong Kong-based TV network known for its pro-China bias.
Chinese-Canadians have been complaining about a pro-Beijing slant in Chinese-language media in Canada and Chinese communities are hesitant to criticize China.
An anonymous source in a Toronto-area Chinese-language media outlet said he would be fired if he mentioned anything against Beijing, such as the crackdown on the Falun Gong movement or the Dalai Lama.
Victor Ho, the former editor-in-chief of Sing Tao, the most popular Chinese-language newspaper in Canada, said that reporting critical of China has largely disappeared from Canadian Chinese-language media. He said owners of media outlets want to keep in China’s good graces for business reasons.
The issue has largely gone unnoticed in Canada due to the language barrier between the media and non-Chinese-speaking Canadians.
Ho suggests the Canadian government adopt laws to require “agents” of China, such as media supporting the CCP, to register as foreign missions to curb overseas influence, similar to a law passed in Australia.
Pro-Beijing influences have already appeared in North American media.
Recently, Disney has been criticized for tailoring its movies to Chinese audiences and even ignoring the Uyghur genocide by filming parts of the movie Mulan near Uyghur concentration camps in Xinjiang.
World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler and actor John Cena was forced to walk back a Twitter post calling Taiwan a “country,” reputedly due to the WWE’s business interests in China.
With China’s penchant for censorship, and the Chinese-language media supporting Beijing’s style of truth denial, this development is a serious concern to Canadian media and our ability to report differing opinions.
If China can influence Chinese-language news media inside of Canada, how long before it does so in English-language news media?
Steve Marlow is the program co-ordinator at CFBX, an independent radio station in Kamloops, located on the campus of Thompson Rivers University. Tune in at 92.5 FM on the dial or go online to thex.ca.