Canada suspends work with Chinese-founded development bank while it investigates complaints

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Beijing (AP) — Canada’s finance minister says it is suspending activity with a Chinese-founded development bank while it investigates complaints by a Canadian who resigned from the lender that it is dominated by “Communist Party hacks” and his country shouldn’t be a member.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank confirmed Wednesday in an email that Bob Pickard resigned as its director general of global communications and rejected his criticism as unfounded.

The AIIB, seen by some as a Chinese rival to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, was founded in 2016 to finance railways and other infrastructure. It has 106 member governments including most Asian countries and Australia, Canada, Russia, France and Britain. Japan and the United States aren’t members.

“The government of Canada will immediately halt all government-led activity at the bank,” Chrystia Freeland, who also is deputy prime minister, told reporters in Ottawa. “I have instructed the Department of Finance to lead an immediate review of the allegations raised and of Canada’s involvement in the AIIB.”

“As the world’s democracies work to de-risk our economies by limiting our strategic vulnerabilities to authoritarian regimes, we must likewise be clear about the means through which these regimes exercise their influence around the world,” Freeland said.

Pickard, who worked in communications for AIIB for 15 months, said on Twitter that resigning was his only course as a “patriotic Canadian.” He complained the bank was dominated by “Communist Party hacks” who were “like an in-house KGB or Gestapo or Stasi” — the secret police of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and communist-era East Germany.

The Beijing-headquartered bank “has one of the most toxic cultures imaginable,” Pickard wrote. “I don’t believe that my country’s interests are served by its AIIB membership.”

The resignation comes at a time when ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is tightening control over China’s government and pushing private sector companies to align with the party’s development plans.

“Mr. Pickard’s recent public comments and characterization of the bank are baseless and disappointing,” the AIIB said in the email. It said the bank “supported and empowered him” during his tenure.

“We are proud of our multilateral mission and have a diverse international team representing 65 different nationalities,” the bank said.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa in a statement rejected Pickard’s comments as “pure sensationalism and a complete lie.”

The AIIB president, Jin Liqun, is Chinese. Vice presidents include a Briton, a Russian, an Indian and a German.

Pickard said he was “concerned for my security” and didn’t post his announcement until he arrived in Japan.

Pickard gave no details. He didn’t immediately respond to an email sent to the address on his personal website.

The United States and other governments have warned their citizens of an increased risk of being arbitrarily detained in China or blocked from leaving the country.

The AIIB is separate from China’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative to build ports, railways and other trade-related infrastructure across Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

It has $47.4 billion in assets, according to the bank’s 2022 financial statement.

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