A Canadian employee of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) said he was advised to ‘flee’ Beijing and ‘not to set foot’ in the country following his resignation in protest of alleged interference by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“I high-tailed it out of there as soon as possible,” said Bob Pickard, the former global communications chief for the AIIB, adding he fled to Japan after quitting the bank earlier this week.
Pickard had announced his resignation in a scathing social media post on Wednesday, after which Canada froze its ties with the AIIB, touted as a Chinese alternative to the World Bank and other Western-led multilateral lending institutions.
“I’ve been advised not to set foot in China anytime soon. From a country where the two Michaels were kidnapped by the government, we’re maybe a little more sensitive or concerned about such things,” he said, referring to the high-profile case of two Canadians detained in China for nearly three years from 2018-2021.
Pickard did not elaborate on who advised him to flee.
Headquartered in Beijing, and established by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2016, AIIB has 106 members worldwide, including Canada.
Earlier this year, AIIB’s president said the bank was an “apolitical” multilateral lender and would not get dragged into geopolitical disputes.
Pickard quit AIIB on Wednesday and announced the move on his personal Twitter account, saying he had left because of its “toxic culture”.
He accused the bank of being “dominated by Communist Party” members and said it did it did not serve Canada’s interests.
I have tendered my resignation as the global comms chief of @AIIB_Official. As a patriotic Canadian, this was my only course. The Bank is dominated by Communist Party members and also has one of the most toxic cultures imaginable. I don’t believe that my country’s interests are…
— Bob Pickard (@BobPickard) June 14, 2023
“I felt the power of the [Communist] Party people interfered with our ability to clearly and transparently communicate,” Pickard told Reuters in an interview, declining to name specific examples due to confidentiality agreements.
“I feel the taxpayers of my country should not be financing this organisation which in the end will be of more benefit to China than any benefit to Canada.”
A public relations veteran, Pickard had joined the AIIB in March 2022, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Meanwhile, the AIIB said it had accepted Pickard’s resignation and called his comments “baseless and disappointing.
China’s embassy in Canada also dismissed Pickard’s statements. “The relevant person’s comments about AIIB are pure sensational hype and outright lies,” China’s embassy in Canada said in a statement on its website late Wednesday.
China is an important member of the AIIB and has always followed multilateral rules and procedures, the embassy said.
“Some countries frequently point fingers at others and make irresponsible remarks… This kind of behaviour is clearly ‘authoritarian’ behaviour,” the embassy added.
Worsening Canada-China relations
Following Pickard’s resignation, Canadian finance minister Chrystia Freedland had announced on Wednesday that the country was freezing ties with AIIB.
Freedland said Ottawa was investigating the matter and did not rule out any outcome, a hint that the country could pull out of AIIB.
Canada had officially joined the bank in March 2018.
The clash marks a new dip in bilateral relations between Canada and China, which have been frosty for half a decade.
Last month, China expelled a Canadian diplomat in Shanghai in a tit-for-tat move after Ottawa told a Toronto-based Chinese diplomat to leave, citing foreign interference.
Canada has accused China of trying to interfere in its affairs through various schemes, including illegal police stations and the targeting of lawmakers. Beijing denies all such allegations.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena