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Surrey assailant feared COVID-19 is a ‘biological weapon,’ court hears

Assault of Chinese Communist Party critic highlights back-and-forth allegations of foreign spying and deception.
Shiliang Yin pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm in B.C. Provincial Court Thursday in relation to his attack on local Chinese Communist Party critic Louis Huang last November during a political protest.

A man who assaulted a pro-democracy activist in Surrey last November testified he was concerned he could catch COVID-19, which he asserted to be a “biological weapon” of the Chinese government.

Shiliang Yin pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm in B.C. Provincial Court Thursday in relation to his interaction with local Chinese Communist Party critic Louis Huang.

On November 25, 2020, Yin had been attending a protest outside the home of Chinese politics blogger Binchen Gao, under a complex set of circumstances that entails back-and-forth allegations of foreign spying and deception.

A CCTV recording from the Green Timbers neighbourhood home of Huang’s friend Gao first shows Huang, 52, in discussion with Yin, 32, and co-accused Mu Bai, 35.

The younger men were standing alongside members of the activist group New Federal State of China, founded by Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok, an exiled Chinese billionaire living in the United States, who appears outwardly critical of the Chinese government but also faces allegations of bribery, money laundering and kidnapping back in China.

The protests at Gao’s home had been ongoing since September 2020, and had provoked nuisance complaints by neighbours. Rain or shine, people with New Federal State of China signs walked around Gao’s cul-de-sac, accusing him of being a Chinese Communist Party spy.

On the day of the assault, the three men approached one another on the street. Huang blew his cigarette smoke in Yin’s direction. Yin claimed Huang did this on purpose, so he responded by punching Huang in the face several times, knocking him to the ground. The video shows Yin then kicking a stunned Huang in the head several times.

Huang told the judge he now suffers from permanent vision loss, pain from a fractured cheekbone and intense social anxiety.

On Thursday, Crown prosecutor Corrine Proctor sought a four-to-six-month prison term plus one year of probation for Yin. Defence lawyer Ryan Johnson called for a six-month prison term to be served at Yin’s home plus one year of probation.

In his defense, Yin said Huang had provoked him, especially as Huang wasn’t wearing a mask. Yin said he questioned why Huang was at his friend’s home at a time when COVID-19 gathering restrictions were most severe.

“Yin believes COVID is a biological weapon and a serious disease,” Johnson told the judge, who is expected to sentence Yin next month.

Furthering his defense, Johnson told of Yin’s “pro-social” life since moving to London, Ontario, from China in 2008, at age 18. Yin, now a Canadian citizen, attended Western University and eventually worked in the software field, including a three-year stint back in China, from 2015 to 2018, to work at Canon’s Asia Pacific headquarters building a financial database.  

Closed-circuit footage shows assault on Louis Huang on November 25, 2020.

The judge was told Yin became a Christian in 2010 and was an active community volunteer. Most recently, said Johnson, Yin helped buy and hand out personal protective equipment at the onset of the pandemic while back in London. Yin moved to the Lower Mainland in September 2020 to become a technical services trainer. Johnson said Yin became upset at Gao for posting a photo of his mother on Twitter – as Gao suspected her of being part of Kwok’s group and the campaign to discredit his work.

In court, Yin, accompanied by a Mandarin translator, apologized to Huang for his conduct.

Members of the New Federal State of China commonly participate in protests across the world. In Vancouver they recently demonstrated alongside anti-vaccine mandate groups. They held picket signs accusing the Chinese government for releasing the novel coronavirus as a biological weapon. The group also promotes COVID-19 therapy alternatives such as hydroxychloroquine, according to Australian news reports.

Proctor did not delve into any possible indirect motives behind Yin’s assault on Huang other than to say it took place during a political protest. Yin declined to speak to Glacier Media to clarify his motivations for attending the protest outside Gao’s home. He left the Surrey courthouse in a newer model Range Rover accompanied by his Prada bag-carrying girlfriend.

Huang, who is not averse to burning China’s flag outside the Chinese consul general compound in Vancouver, supports Gao’s claim that billonaire Kwok is targeting Gao and other critics of the Chinese Communist Party, in an attempt by Kwok to regain favour with the Chinese government. Other Chinese dissidents in the United States have reported similar attacks on them by Kwok’s group members, whom Huang alleges are paid to protest at all hours of the day.

As to why Kwok loyalists are claiming COVID-19 is a biological weapon if the billionaire is trying to regain favour with the CCP, Chinese politics and propaganda observer Ivy Li says it is likely a tactic to confuse and alienate the general public from actual anti-CCP movements. Li, a member of pro-democracy activist group Canadian Friends of Hong Kong, says Hong Kong activist groups have been infiltrated by the CCP and such tactics are likely being employed in Canada.

And espousing such a conspiracy theory could also serve to muddy the waters by raising doubt about more credible but unproven laboratory leak theories alleging Chinese government incompetence, says filmmaker and author Ina Mitchell, who reports on China’s United Front Work Department propaganda network in Vancouver.

“We are living in an era of tin-foil hat diplomacy,” Mitchell said. “I think the CCP is engineering a lot of conspiracy theories as a way to discredit rivals and create disinformation.”

She said many do not know what to make of the Kwok-Gao fight.

For their part, the protesters have claimed Gao is actually a CCP agent. Gao’s critics note online he’s been allowed to return to China, indicating he’s not blacklisted.

Gao, who runs an online blog and YouTube channel, has been critical of wealthy Chinese people – many of whom, such as Kwok, who are alleged to be corrupt but nevertheless have taken hold of so-called overseas Chinese groups or associations in the West that purport to promote ethnic Chinese people’s interests and community engagement.

In November 2018 the BC Supreme Court ruled Gao defamed Miaofei Pan, a Vancouver-area real estate developer and purported community activist who hosted a fundraiser event for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016 at his Vancouver home. That home was subsequently subject to a suspected arson in 2019.

Pan is the former chairman of the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations, a Richmond-based organization with close ties to the People’s Republic of China. In 2012, for example, Pan led a CACA delegation to China to join the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission, which is part of the CCP’s United Front department overseeing foreign influence operations, according to U.S. intelligence reviews.

Gao took the position in his blog that wealthy Chinese people such as Pan have sullied the overseas Chinese community and they do not speak for all Chinese people. Gao’s blogs, displayed in the court case, were critical of present-day corruption within the CCP, but not necessarily Chinese socialism, or Maoism. When asked why that was so, Gao explained to Glacier Media that his work had to be discerning so as to not be banned entirely from China.

Regardless of which side these men side with, Mitchell said, “it’s a great way to cause division and deflect from what is really going on.”

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