On Wednesday the National Post website ran a story - previewing a piece in today’s Ottawa Magazine - about well-credentialled Ottawa free-lancer Mark Bourrie, who quit his position as a correspondent for Chinese news agency Xinhua when he realized that some of the requeste being made to him went rather beyond the bounds of normal political journalism (e.g., his handlers were asking detailed questions about the Dalai Lama when the Chinese media never discusses the Dalai Lama). Bourrie became persuaded that
“They tried to get me … to write a report for the Chinese government on the Dalai Lama using my press credentials as a way of getting access I wouldn’t otherwise have,” Mr. Bourrie…said in an interview with the National Post. He alleges there are individuals within Xinhua who are acting as spies, seeking to “monitor [practitioners of the spiritual movement] Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama and any other critics of the Chinese government in Canada. That, I know for sure.”
Xinhua of course is refusing comment – as are official Ottawa and the Press Gallery (which accredits Xinhua as parliamentary media) – but this comes as no great surprise to China-watchers, or indeed to members of the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto. On March 24, 2010 CSIS Commissioner Richard Fadden told a packed dining room at the venerable University Avenue quarters of the RCMI that:
We’re in fact a bit worried in a couple of provinces that we have an indication that there’s some political figures who have developed quite an attachment to foreign countries.
He didn’t mention names, or even organizations, but the interesting fact is that although the story subsequently caused considerable whoop-de-do (Fadden had brought his own CBC cameraman to the dinner) the Commissioner was never either controverted or reprimanded by the government of the day, which, come to think, is the government of this day.
Since Xinhua bureau chief Dacheng Zhang has just been on an Arctic tour with the PM, the Bourrie Revelation is guaranteed to make nobody happy. Somehow – given the sudden across-the-spectrum Canadian hunger to get close to all things Chinese, the word doublethink does tiptoe into the thought processes…
Eric Morse is with the Royal Canadian Military Institute, Toronto28
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