A document has been doing the rounds on social media that purports to be instructions on propaganda used by the Chinese government to deal with the Hong Kong protests.

The guidelines include minimizing the tally of people attending pro-democracy protests, framing the debate as one of riots (pro-democracy) versus the rule of law (Beijing Communists and the Hong Kong police), and labeling the protesters as puppets of the West.

It’s unclear whether this is a document for internal government use only or if it’s being pushed to Chinese Communist Party-controlled media. And there’s no way to confirm it.

It’s not like there’s a free press that can work their sources or file access to information requests to confirm these documents. But it certainly bears all the signs of CCP propaganda.

What sort of media would this, or similar directives, be distributed to though? The People’s Daily is a major publication in China that is directly owned by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and it’s been publishing since 1948. It is the media mouthpiece of the CCP.

That’s not the only one though. There are other publications that routinely offer pro-Beijing coverage and commentary. And not because they’re independent papers that have, of their own volition, determined that’s what their editorial slant will be. But because they’re also under the sway of the CCP.

It’s a hard thing for a North American news consumer to wrap their hands around, but it’s true. It’s not just a phenomenon happening in China either, but also here in Canada.

Foreign affairs journalist Jonathan Manthorpe breaks all of this down in detail in his new book Claws of the Panda: Beijing’s Campaign of Influence and Intimidation in Canada.

“In 1990, the CCP launched a series of newspapers [the China Press] for the North American market that were directly under its control,” Manthorpe writes. “Editorially, China Press newspapers are cheerleaders for the CCP regime.”

Manthorpe adds that “The Sing Tao operation fell into the CCP’s grasp in the late 1980s when its then owner, Sally Aw Sian, had a corporate financial crisis and turned to Beijing for help.” The Sing Tao Daily is one of the more visible Chinese-language publications in Canada.

Recent coverage in The Sing Tao Daily of the Hong Kong-related events taking place in the Toronto area has slanted favourably towards those voices opposing the democracy activists.

There are even two Chinese media outlets under the control of their government that have membership in the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Ottawa, meaning they have special privileges in the federal Parliament Buildings only granted to accredited media. One is the previously described People’s Daily, the other is Xinhua, the official news agency of the People’s Republic of China.

The question is not if there is Chinese language media in Canada under the sway of Beijing. That is an established fact. The question is just how much influence it will wield in Canada – whether it’s during the Hong Kong protests, the Meng Wanzhou affair, or any of the other issues that Beijing may wish to assert its position on. What is undeniable is that this is all a considerable cause for concern.

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Columnist and op-ed editor for the Sun papers/Postmedia.

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