By Xiao Xu | The Globe and Mail
VANCOUVER, Canada, 24 April 2019
A letter purporting to be from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcoming members to a newly formed group promoting ties between Tibet and China is a hoax, the primer minister’s office said Tuesday.
The letter, circulated on social media, was dated 17 April, days before the Saturday inauguration gala for the Tibetan Association of Canada. Online video of the gala shows that provincial Ontario Progressive Conservative Vincent Ke and Toronto city councillor Jim Karygiannis attended the event.
“I’m pleased to extend my warmest greetings to everyone attending the 2019 Tibetan Association of Canada gala,” read the letter which claimed to come from Mr. Trudeau. The letter is on what looks like PMO letterhead.
It’s circulation on social media angered Tibetan groups in Canada. However, Amreet Kaur, a spokesman for the PMO, said no such letter was sent.
“A letter of greeting was not sent by the Prime Minister to the Tibetan Association of Canada. Our office is looking into this matter further,” Mr Kaur said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.
Chinese-language media reported on the weekend meeting of the group at a restaurant in Scarborough.
Mr Ke could not be reached for comment. Mr Karygiannis posted photos of himself at the gala to his Twitter feed but did not comment on the association.
Members of the Tibetan community in Canada were horrified at thoughts the prime minister would offer his support to the group. Five Tibetan groups wrote a letter to the PMO to express their concern.
“We are appalled that a fake letter of support from the Prime Minister of Canada is being used to mislead Canadians,” said the letter.
“The strategy of this group, strongly supported by the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government, seems to be to divide the Tibetan community in Canada.”
Sonam Lankar, president of the Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario, said he was relieved to learn the letter was a hoax.
“People in Tibet are still struggling and they have a lot of issues,” he said in an interview.
Last month marked 60 years since Tibet’s Dalai Lama fled into exile amid an abortive uprising against Chinese control. China clamped down hard and the Himalayan region has not gained the autonomy it seeks.
China doesn’t recognize the Tibetan government-in-exile and hasn’t held any dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010. Beijing accuses him of seeking to separate Tibet from China.
Dorjee Tenzin, president of the Tibetan Association of Canada, said in a speech to the gala posted online on YouTube that China has helped develop Tibet dramatically and that the goal of this group to make more overseas Tibetans aware of the contribution from the Chinese government.
“As overseas Tibetans, we deeply feel the tremendous changes happening in Tibet,” he said.
“The improvement of Tibetan’s life, the economy, the establishment of highways and the freedom of religions and beliefs have changed a lot … As overseas Tibetans, we are sincerely happy for the changes in our homeland.”
He went on to say that Tibet and China can never be separated: “We are like brothers and sisters.”
The association is a member of the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations (CTCCO), an umbrella platform that serves more than 90 organizations in Canada.
Wei Chengyi, honorary chairman of CTCCO, who attended the inauguration meeting, said he knew nothing about the hoax letter.
“I don’t know. I wasn’t responsible for [this event],” he said in an interview.
In a video comment, Weng Guoning, president of CTCCO, said most members of Tibetan Association of Canada are or will be against Tibet separation.
But Sonam Chokey, national director for Students for a Free Tibet Canada, said the new group doesn’t represent the view of most Tibetan Canadians.
“For most of the Tibetans who live here in Canada, we would say this is not a legitimate representation of Tibetans here,” she said in an interview.
“For us to see this, this is definitely very worrying and very troublesome that they are trying to push Chinese propaganda again here in Canada.”