By Douglas Quan,
November 9, 2010
A lawyer for a Chinese immigrant accused of disguising himself as an elderly Caucasian man to board a flight to Canada asked Monday that three Chinese-language media outlets be barred from the man’s Immigration and Refugee Board hearing.
Dan McLeod, duty counsel for the unnamed refugee claimant, is requesting that the following print outlets be barred from the detention-review hearing: Ming Pao Daily News and Sing Tao Daily, both Canadian Chinese-language newspapers; and World Journal, a U.S.-based Chinese-language newspaper.
McLeod said he has concerns about the owners of these outlets being under heavy influence by the Chinese regime.
“This is an extremely unusual case,” he said in requesting the ban.
McLeod said extremely serious and harmful leaks of confidential information about his client had already occurred, citing such examples as his photo, which has only his eyes blacked out, and details of his journey to Canada.
Representatives of the three Chinese-language papers rejected McLeod’s claims, saying they “totally disagree” with his assertions of outside influence.
David Jang, a representative for the Sing Tao Daily, said, “if Sing Tao is controlled by the Chinese government, I won’t work for them.”
McLeod called the denials by all three papers “rhetoric.”
The claimant wasn’t present for the detention hearing. He listened to the proceedings via a conference call, aided by an interpreter.
Jim Murray, a representative of the Canada Border Services Agency, said evidence will be presented at the hearing that includes references to an organization that the refugee claimant belonged to in China.
According to Murray, the Chinese man has submitted evidence about what China does to people who belong to that organization. He didn’t name the organization or comment on whether the claimant is associated with Falun Gong, a semi-spiritual movement in China condemned as a cult by the Chinese government.
Photographs of the Asian man — who got on a flight in Hong Kong last week while wearing a highly detailed mask that made him appear to be an elderly Caucasian — have been splashed across TV newscasts and newspapers since word of his stunt emerged.
Representatives of the three Chinese-language media outlets in question were scrambling
late Monday to reach their corporate lawyers to substantiate company ownership information.
Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator Daphne Shaw-Dyck will ultimately decide whether to allow media into the man’s detention-review hearing.
Meanwhile, CNN reported Monday that a passenger on the same flight tried to warn the aircrew that the man was wearing a mask, but no one did anything about it.
CNN quoted Nuray Kurtur-Balas, 35, as saying: “I thought he was going to harm the plane. I kept my iPhone in my pocket to call my family if something happened.”
Kurtur-Balas said the man was wearing a mask and his hands seemed those of a much younger person.
“It wasn’t a real person’s skin. It looked plastic,” she told CNN.
She said she brought her concerns to the attention of three flight crew and was finally told by one that they would look into it, but nothing was done.
“I was thinking the whole time he was wearing a mask,” Kurtur-Balas told the news organization. “Why would somebody wear a mask if they have a medical issue?
“I was thinking he was going to blow the plane up.”
On Saturday, lawyer Lee Rankin, who is also acting for the refugee claimant, slammed immigration officials for “parading” his client in front of the media, accusing them of
leaking the confidential report about his exploits — and possibly endangering his safety.
“It should be disturbing to Canadians … that somebody who’s a potential asylum-seeker should be treated in such a dehumanizing way,” Rankin told Postmedia News.
He said his client is a Chinese national in his early 20s who doesn’t speak English. He suggested the man’s elaborate disguise was provided to him by a human smuggler.
“It’s unlikely that this method of concealment and documentation is something he dreamed up on his own,” Rankin said.
The Chinese man boarded the Air Canada flight in Hong Kong on Oct. 29, according a confidential intelligence alert from the Canada Border Services Agency that was first obtained by CNN. It’s believed he had somehow swapped boarding passes with a U.S. citizen and passenger who was born in 1955.
The young traveller removed his mask during the flight. Upon arriving in Vancouver, he was met by CBSA officers and now has requested asylum.
According to Immigration and Refugee Board data, the board handled 1,282 refugee claims from China from January to September of this year. Just over half — 51 per cent — were accepted. The rest were denied, abandoned or withdrawn.