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1. In the early 2000s, a former PLA officer named Li Zhe started making the rounds with Vancouver-area mayors, and got involved in a 'Vancouver style' development in Beijing. A junket to Beijing caused some controversy in 2007 -- but ...
2. Little was known about this Beijing developer, until now. Through researching United Front Work Department networks active in Canada, we have learned more about his background and connections in Beijing.
3. Billionaire real estate developer Li Zhe organized the trip and approached then-Port Moody mayor Joe Trasolini and invited him on the all-expenses paid trip to Beijing. Trasolini then forwarded invitations to the other mayors.
4. NV mayor Darrell Mussatto said the Canadians were extremely impressed by Li's access to senior CCP official Gang CHEN, then-Beijing vice-mayor — who made a convincing case to the B.C. mayors that China was taking climate change seriously, and doing sustainable development.
5. “I came away impressed that China gets it,” Mussatto said. “Or, at least the vice-mayor of Beijing gets it.” It still is not known, whether the junket facilitator LI Zhe, was at that time, a UFWD worker for CCP Central Committee. But now it is clear.
6. The delegation also visited a number of Li Zhe’s buildings in Beijing, Trasolini and Mussatto told Global News, including ‘Riverside’ — a mostly unoccupied luxury condo project.
7. But members of the religious group Falun Gong — which is persecuted in Mainland China — say they believe Trasolini’s participation in the junket may have influenced his position on the persecuted group.
8. Falun Gong member Sue Zhang told Global News that Trasolini had been very supportive of her group from 2002 until 2007. Zhang claimed Trasolini had also informed her once, that a visitor from the Chinese consulate in Vancouver had asked him not to support Falun Gong.
8. Trasolini had been a strong supporter of Falun Gong until '07, when he traveled to Beijing on the junket. And then he withdrew support. Trasolini told us that Sue Zhang is right, Chinese officials in BC did contact him about Falun Gong.
9. “There was a call, we are talking about 2003, or 2004, from the office of the consulate, inquiring about, that I have seen Falun Gong,” Trasolini said. “I remember, definitely they were not in favour. But I wasn’t the sort of person that would be intimidated by a phone call.”
10. However, Trasolini insisted there was no persuasion from Li Zhe or Chinese officials during the Beijing trip or in relation to it, to alter his position on Falun Gong support.
11. But we found, according to reports in the official CCP media, that Li Zhe is celebrated for a wide-scale Western leader influence campaign, using his real estate development business. He claims to have significantly influenced an unidentified Canadian leader, on a China visit
13. Not everyone who was on the 2007 Beijing junket has responded to questions, more than seven BC mayors are associated to Li Zhe though, I'm continuing to look at some leads in the case. Some more on the UFWD, from our story.
14. According to reports from CSIS and the United States government, the United Front Works Department is one of Beijing’s most powerful intelligence gathering and influence agencies, and the department seeks to control Chinese diaspora populations and foreign leaders.
15. Operations in the West are directed from China’s Politburo, “to charm, co-opt or attack well-defined groups and individuals,” The Financial Times reported, in order “to win support for China’s political agenda, accumulate influence overseas and gather key information.”
16. Trasolini, who has retired from politics, said the new information that Global News has learned about Li Zhe’s background, could provide a cautionary notification to active Canadian politicians.
17. In an interview with Global News about allegations in this story, Andy Ellis, a former senior official with CSIS, said “if the allegations of these sources are true, which they may very well be, it is a very serious situation.”
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