Former B.C. MLA kept using government BlackBerry after search by Chinese border agents
VANCOUVER -- A former BC Liberal MLA from Burnaby is raising troubling questions about whether the Chinese government tried to meddle in B.C. politics during the Christy Clark administration.
In November 2015, Richard T. Lee and his wife touched down in Shanghai, planning to tour China on a personal holiday to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.
"When we arrived, my name was called out at the front of the plane," said Lee, who has been an outspoken critic of China, often participating in vigils outside the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver.
Lee claims Chinese border agents separated him from his wife and placed him in a small room, forcing him to hand over his personal cellphone and unlock his government issued BlackBerry.
"After that, the two phones were returned to me, and at that point they said I can go...after a few hours," said Lee, who estimates he was in custody for about seven or eight hours.
According to Lee, even though he had a valid visa, he and his wife were escorted directly to a boarding area and placed on a return flight to Canada.
He said he told senior BC Liberals what happened, but continued using the BlackBerry for government business, even though Chinese authorities had spent considerable time with it.
Cyber security advisor Dominic Vogel said nations like China possess sophisticated technology that can be discreetly installed on mobile devices.
"From an espionage perspective, they want any information that they can take to better position themselves economically or form a political advantage," said Vogel.
He said because Lee’s BlackBerry was unlocked and out of his possession when the Chinese border agents took it, he should never have used it again.
"They may have installed a key logger, which keeps track of all the inputs onto the device. There may be a remote microphone to listen in on his conversations," said Vogel. "That device – if the MLA still has it – they should pretty much burn that device. It’s compromised."
Current B.C. Attorney General David Eby has serious concerns about what happened.
"The allegations have international implications for Canada and our relationship with China and that is why I will be writing to the federal attorney general, asking the federal government to look into this," said Eby in a statement. "I will also offer B.C.'s assistance to get to the bottom of whatever happened during Lee's detention."
Lee also claims a senior BC Liberal cabinet minister told him the Chinese consul general complained about his criticism – adding another layer of intrigue to this international mystery.