The Atlantic Council’s DFRLab, a US think tank, is reporting that China-linked WeChat accounts took an active role in seeking to influence the recent parliamentary election in Canada, displaying signs of a coordinated campaign to influence behavior among the Chinese diaspora. According to a DFRLab report:
November 4, 2021 China seems to have found increasing value in openly attempting to influence communities through its popular WeChat messaging app as a means of galvanizing public favor internationally toward its own government and activities, including — as this case will show — attempting to impact electoral outcomes in democratic countries. Evidence from the most recent Canadian election underscores the value China sees in controlling the information flow to its diaspora community. It also suggests an uptick in Chinese efforts to translate its online efforts into offline action. […]
The DFRLab uncovered a number of articles on WeChat aimed at the Chinese diaspora population with the aim of influencing the diaspora vote. While many of these posts provided resources for how to access official information on voter registration and the platforms and positions of candidates running in particular areas, an equal if not larger number of accounts posted disinformation intended to dissuade Chinese voters from supporting candidates holding anti-China views. Among these posts were many from torontolingshiguan. In its September 10 news briefing, torontolingshiguan included an essay lifted from a September 9 article posted to jiarenjiashi, an official WeChat account run by Today Commercial News (TCN), a media organization purporting to share business and lifestyle-related news relevant to Chinese speakers in Canada. The September 9 essay featured warnings to the diaspora community regarding Kenny Chiu (赵锦荣), a Conservative Party member of parliament (MP) then seeking reelection, while the headline for the September 10 news brief — which has since been taken down — read: “Chinese take heed! Conservative MP Kenny Chiu to Raise ‘Foreign Influence Registration Act.”
Read the full report here.
The report notes that WeChat is China’s most popular messaging app, with a monthly user base of over 1 billion users, and is the primary communication platform between the Chinese diaspora and those living in China.