After beating, Chinese journalist targeted in Surrey protest wants action from city and police
Published Friday, November 27, 2020 5:02PM PST Last Updated Friday, November 27, 2020 6:58PM PST
VANCOUVER -- The Chinese journalist targeted by an ongoing protest in a Surrey cul-de-sac that turned violent this week says he wants the city and the police to step in before more people get hurt.
Benson Gao says he warned Surrey officials multiple times about the dozen or so people that have gathered constantly outside his house, claiming to be part of a group with ties to a Chinese tycoon on the lam and a former advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump.
And he’s hoping they’ll do something — now that home surveillance video shows a brutal attack on his friend, Louis Huang, who was sucker-punched, tackled, and kicked multiple times in the head.
“First I was really angry, and then I was depressed,” Gao told CTV News through a translator. “We told the police again and again that such violence would happen.”
He says his family has had to stay inside, and he has had to keep his 10-year-old daughter from the people involved in the protest, where people in matching blue rain covers march along the street in front of his house, and stream video from their devices constantly.
“I thought I lived in a democracy, but I am living in terror,” Gao said.
The protesters themselves didn’t respond to questions in person in the cul-de-sac Wednesday. They have leafletted homes claiming to be part of the New Federal State of China, a group founded by former Donald Trump advisor Steve Bannon, and Chinese tycoon Miles Guo, who is living in exile in New York.
The aims of the protesters, and Gao, sound similar: they’re both criticizing the Chinese Communist Party. Guo’s group has claimed that Gao is in league with the CCP. But documents filed in an American court allege it’s actually Guo who is working with the Chinese government to target critics abroad. Guo has denied this.
The Surrey RCMP has arrested two people for the assault, said spokesperson Cpl. Elenore Sturko. But it has so far held off any action against the protest in general.
“We have lawful assembly and we can peacefully protest,” she said. “The difference is whether or not lawful activity is taking place.”
The City of Surrey said its bylaw officers had attended but found that there were no obstructions of traffic or bylaw violations.
Lawyer Martin Peters said authorities have a fact pattern that could point them to a Criminal Code offence of harassment.
“It’s classic language of the Criminal Code, watching and besetting a dwelling house,” he said, adding that if the evidence shows this is an organized attempt to harass Gao, anyone involved, including the people at the top, could be liable.
He said Gao or the City of Surrey could also apply to get a civil injunction, which could require a buffer zone between the protesters and Gao’s home. That was part of the order during the protests of the TransMountain pipeline, where the City of Burnaby was represented in court.
Police have protected the protesters’ Charter freedoms so far, Peters said, but it seems that the protest is infringing on Gao’s own Charter freedoms.
“This is probably designed to have a chilling effect on this journalist,” Peter said.
Several city councillors didn’t respond to inquires by CTV News.
If there's no further action, Gao said he plans to sue the city and the RCMP for failing to keep the peace.