Human rights defenders increasingly face threats, intimidation over China advocacy: report

  • Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China says Canadian government’s inadequate response emboldens pro-Beijing actors

OTTAWA – Advocates across Canada are increasingly facing threats, intimidation, and harassment for sounding the alarm on serious human rights concerns in China, according to a new report.       

The Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China, a coalition of Canada-based civil society organizations with a specific focus on the place of human rights in Canada’s foreign policy with China, released the report today. The Coalition is calling on Canadian officials to urgently address these deeply worrying incidents, some of which have involved cyberbullying, death threats, racist insults, and aggressive counter-protests organized in response to pro-democracy demonstrations. Many of these cases are clearly linked, either directly or indirectly, to Chinese state actors.

Further, the report highlights a new trend of such incidents taking place on university campuses and secondary schools across Canada.

“This deeply worrying trend is clearly part of a longstanding and systematic campaign to silence public debate on serious human rights concerns in China which increasingly extends far beyond China’s borders,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English Branch. “Canadian officials – including the federal government, intelligence agencies and many law enforcement bodies – have been aware of these issues for many years but have failed to pursue effective action. It’s time for a coordinated government approach to protect the rights of those raising awareness in Canada of serious human rights issues in China.”

In 2017, Amnesty International Canada, in coordination with other members of the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China, published an earlier report to draw attention to an organized and sustained campaign of intimidation and harassment aimed at activists working on China-related human rights issues in Canada.

In this updated and expanded report, the Coalition is recommending that Canadian authorities:

  • appoint a centralized focal point within the government to be the primary frontline contact for individuals and groups facing harassment and intimidation linked to activism on human rights concerns in China;
  • maintain highlevel diplomatic engagement with China on the harassment and intimidation issue;
  • continually reassess economic and trade ties with China and prioritize human rights concerns in their bilateral relationship;
  • work with other governments to rase concerns about Chinese human rights violations;
  • affirm its opposition to these violations of normal diplomatic practice;
  • establish an independent public inquiry into methods and incidents of interference specific to the education sector; and
  • examine legislation in other jurisdictions countering covert foreign interference and consider enacting similar legislation in Canada.

“So far, the responses from Canadian officials have been piecemeal, at best,” said France-Isabelle Langlois, Directrice generale of Amnistie internationale Canada francophone. “A number of individuals who have faced harassment and intimidation tell us they no longer bother reporting  incidents of this nature to Canadian authorities – either because they think it will not help, or they fear it will make it worse, particularly for loved ones in China, if the Chinese government were to find out. This puts an unacceptable chilling effect on free expression and other fundamental freedoms in Canada.”

Media contacts:

Lucy Scholey, Media Relations Officer, Amnesty International Canada (English branch), 613-853-2142,

Khoudia Ndiaye, Directrice des communications et strategies, Amnistie internationale Canada francophone, 514-766-9766 poste 5230,