Canadian reporter says Chinese news agency asked him to spy

A longtime Canadian journalist says he resigned his post at China’s state-run news agency after he was asked to use his press-pass privileges to spy on a prominent Tibetan separatist leader. Mark Bourrie, an Ottawa-based reporter and author of several books, told The Canadian Press news agency that he was first approached by Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua in 2009. The veteran journalist was allegedly told by Xinhua officials that the agency planned to expand its news coverage of Canada and wished to compete with other international news services active in North America. Bourrie said that, upon joining Xinhua, he began to cover “routine political subjects”; gradually, however, his superiors started making “some unusual requests”. In one characteristic case, he was asked to report on the identities and contact information of political activists who had participated in legal protests against the visit to Canada of Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2010. Bourrie says he rebuffed such requests, because they did not seem to him to have journalistic value. In April of this year, Xinhua’s bureau chief in Ottawa, Dacheng Zhang, allegedly asked Bourrie to attend a keynote speech by the 14th Dalai Lama at the Sixth World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet, which was held at the Ottawa Conference Center. Based in India, the Dalai Lama is the most prominent international figure of the movement for the independence of the Tibet Autonomous Region, which has been ruled by the People’s Republic of China since 1951. Xinhua officials allegedly asked Bourrie to turn over to them his notes from the speech, even though they would not be producing a relevant news story, in compliance with Xinhua’s editorial policy of not reporting on the activities of “Tibetan separatists”. In an interview with The Canadian Press news agency, Bourrie said that he made the decision to resign his Xinhua post after realizing that the Dalai Lama’s speech was open only to accredited journalists such as himself. The Canadian journalist said he concluded that he was being used as a spy, essentially attending the exiled Tibetan leader’s speech “under false pretenses, pretending to be a journalist but acting as a [foreign] government agent”. It is worth noting Bourrie’s claim that, when he was offered a job by Xinhua in 2009, he contacted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to seek advice, but was ignored. Late on Wednesday, Canadian media contacted Xinhua’s Ottawa bureau chief Dacheng Zhang, who dismissed Bourrie’s claims as remnants of “Cold War” ideology.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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