The request for a federal probe raised to a new level concerns over Beijing’s attempts at moulding opinion in Canada — even as Chinese diplomats deny they played any part in the two recent episodes.
Two Muslim student groups, Uyghur-Canadian activist Rukiye Turdush and Students for a Free Tibet raised the issue in a letter Wednesday to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
In one of the cases this month, Chinese students launched a petition — garnering 11,000 digital “signatures” — calling for the removal of a Tibetan-Canadian woman just elected as a student union president at the University of Toronto, as the student herself, Chemi Lhamo, faced a barrage of abusive online messages.
In the other incident, five Chinese student groups — acknowledging they had been in contact with the Chinese consulate — criticized McMaster University in Hamilton for permitting a talk by a Uyghur–Canadian woman that highlighted well-documented abuses against her people in China’s Xinjiang province.
There’s no direct evidence the Chinese students were acting under Beijing’s orders, but in online messages the McMaster students mentioned contacting China’s Toronto consulate. The Tibetan and Uyghur activists are convinced consular officials were involved.
Freeland and Goodale’s offices referred a query from the National Post to the office of Science and Sport Minister Duncan, who’s also responsible for universities.
Any place of learning should be free of abuse, discrimination, harassment and hate, said Duncan press secretary Daniele Medlej in a statement.