British Columbia

Goodwill visit by Chinese navy draws crowds, questions

The red flag of China waved over Victoria's harbour this week as three ships from the Peoples' Liberation Army (Navy) of China arrived for a five-day goodwill visit to the west coast.

Visit by Chinese warships attracts a boatload of attention in Victoria

People's Liberation Army (Navy) Task Force 546 arrived at Victoria's Ogden Point public terminal Dec. 14, 2016 for a five-day goodwill visit. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

The red flag of China waved over Victoria's harbour this week as three ships from the Peoples' Liberation Army (Navy) arrived for a five-day goodwill visit to the West Coast.

The guided-missile frigates Yancheng and Daqing, along with the massive Taihu replenishment ship, are on an official tour of the Pacific Rim.

They were greeted at Ogden Point by a crowd that included hundreds of Chinese Canadians, students and the CFB Esquimalt Naden Band.

The last visit to Victoria by the Chinese navy was in 2006. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

The Chinese navy last stopped in Victoria in 2006.

At the official welcome for the Chinese sailors, Thomas Chan, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, spoke on behalf of the Chinese-Canadian community.

"This event signifies a strengthening in the relationship between our two countries," Chan said. "For all Chinese-Canadians, this is a historic moment that brings together the two countries that hold a place in our hearts."

A group of international students with a banner reading 'Students welcome Chinese Navy to Canada' was among the crowd that greeted the People's Liberation Army (Navy) ships. (Sterling Eyford/CBC)

"As a Chinese immigrant living in Canada I feel so proud to witness the growing military strength and prosperity of my motherland, China," he said.

"China as a rising power is becoming a strong defender for peace in the world and for the freedom of navigation."

Not everyone is as comfortable with China's growing military profile. On CBC Victoria's facebook page, some commenters questioned the presence of the Chinese warships.


Meanwhile, on Wednesday a U.S. think tank raised concerns about increasing militarization by China, based on satellite imagery that shows what appear to be anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems on seven artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea.

U.S. officials also launched a formal diplomatic protest after a Chinese warship seized an underwater drone deployed by a U.S. oceanographic vessel in the South China Sea on Thursday, according to Reuters news agency.

The Captains of the Yanchen, Daqing and Taihu posed with students from the Chinese Public School who presented a decorated Christmas tree for each visiting ship. (Sterling Eyford/CBC)

In Victoria the three ships offered tours at their berth at the Ogden Point cruise ship docks.

Since sailing from Tsintao on Oct. 18, the ships also stopped in Auckland, N.Z., and San Diego for ports-of-call.

With files from Sterling Eyford