Was the cult the brainchild of the CCP’s United Front Work Department so as to enable covert operations in Canada and elsewhere?
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Bo Fan sat on the side of the road while she struggled to phone her brother Justin Peng Fan, and sister-in-law, Miranda Miao to take her to the hospital.
Behind Bo, a gated, CAD$3.5 million (Canadian Dollar) mansion with a swimming pool in an affluent area of Surrey, British Columbia, home to a large Asian community. The Peace Arch border crossing to Washington state is 10 minutes away. Downtown Vancouver 35 minutes by car.
The 41-year-old had worked here since arriving from China in February 2019, hosting swanky parties to impress recruits for Create Abundance International, a mysterious multi-level marketing operation considered a cult by Chinese authorities.
Ferraris, Bentleys, Rolls Royces, and Maserati came and went from the compound. Each sporting vanity license plates beginning “GT”. Tucked inside the front porch window, a stuffed leopard eyeing its prey.
When her brother and sister-in-law finally took her to the Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, doctors and nurses tirelessly worked for hours, but could not save her life. Among her injuries, a femur broken in half. The strongest bone in the body. Why did she spend valuable time calling her brother, who lived further east of the hospital, instead of an ambulance?
Bo would have been just another statistic, if not for a YouTube video posted two years earlier by a guy on Salt Spring Island. Enter “Banana Joe” Clemente, a local legend fond of tropical plants. On St. Patrick’s Day in 2018, Clemente was driving on North Beach Road when he came across more than 50 people in camouflage gear, marching on the roadside. Was China’s People’s Liberation Army on his sleepy island? It looked like the soldiers were headed to Salt Spring Mineral Springs Resort, a property owned by Create Abundance International Institute.
Clemente posted the short clip on YouTube and then forgot about it for two years. Little did he know it would catch the eye of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Security Intelligence Service. But they thought it was just a cult.
Was it really so simple?
It got complicated, fast, in June 2020 when the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) held a news conference, appealing for clues. Bo Fan was the victim of foul play and it had something to do with her job. “There’s still much we need to learn about Ms Fan and her history,” said Sgt. Frank Jang, spokesman of the RCMP-affiliated IHIT.
Police searched her brother’s home in the heavily treed community of Brookswood, Langley. Neighbours of Justin Fan and his wife “Miao Miao” said they saw militarized RCMP officers run down their street, guns cocked. They whisked away an elderly woman and a baby from the home and set up mobile command centre in the backyard.
The murder mystery and its link to “Banana Joe” and his YouTube video enthralled viewers of CTV News Vancouver in July 2020. Naturally, China’s social media savvy “50 cent army,” jumped into action with a disinformation campaign, claiming that the story was the stuff of tabloid conspiracy.
CREATE ABUNDANCE & TGSA
Members of Create Abundance spent up to $3 million CNY (Chinese yuan) for status in the organization, often wearing medallions on their heads. No receipts were issued, so no paper trail. Yet the leaders had real estate, cars, yachts, airplanes and businesses, from New York to Kuala Lumpur to France. Even a fashion brand called Homolog Paris on the chic L’avenue des Champs-Élysées.
Another oddity. At least one relative of Create Abundance’s leader, Xinyue Zhang, was guilty of the multi-level-marketing in which the cult engaged.
In October 2015, the Beijing Abundance Foundation, a charity created in the name of Create Abundance, was approved by the Beijing Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau. The foundation aimed to support youth education programs, like the “Xinyue Youth Community Charity Funding Program”. Meanwhile, in China, the CCP arrested Hanwen Zhang, also known as Emily Cheong, Xinyue Zhang’s niece.
Cheong, founder of Homolog Paris, was arrested in June 2016, and charged with smuggling jewelry for her aunt, en route from Hong Kong to Shanghai. However, the store at which she was accused of buying the goods in Hong Kong didn’t exist.
She got three years’ prison and four years’ probation. Her social media posts, with scenes from Vancouver and Paris, suggest she was never put behind bars. The court heard that Xinyue’s followers thought of her as a god, but the bulk of the case revolved around the multi-level marketing scheme. China was known to use “show trials” to silence critics and “shape reality”. Was the veneer of justice used in order to suggest the CCP chased the cult out of China?
By that time, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “anti corruption” Operation Fox Hunt was well under way. The global operation aimed at repatriating China’s most wanted began in June 2014, the month before the cult opened its doors in Canada.
“Createabundance International Institute” was how the cult was registered in British Columbia by lawyer Benedict Lam, an affiliate of Anthony Remedios, president of the Macau Canadian Business Association. Remedios emceed a 20th anniversary party in 2019 for Macau’s return to China, toasting Beijing’s favourable treatment of the gambling haven onstage with Consul-General Tong Xiaoling.
Remedios was proud of his close ties to the Chinese government, even being invited by the Minister of Justice to set up an office in Beijing and to tour the Great Hall of the People, site of China’s rubber stamp Parliament.
Create Abundance held its first signing ceremony, jointly with several organizations associated with the CCP’s United Front Work Department foreign influence campaign in Richmond, B.C., home of the Vancouver international airport and maybe the most-Asian city outside of Asia.
Local politicians came to witness what was billed as an event to bring “harmonious friendship, happiness, and world peace”. There was James Wang, a Burnaby city council member and consultant to the United Front’s Weinan Federation of Overseas Chinese. Local Liberal Party Member of Parliament Joe Peschisolido, a real estate lawyer whose organized crime-linked clients drew attention from RCMP detectives. And Richard Lee, who represented a Burnaby district for the ruling BC Liberal Party and finally revealed in 2019 how he had been detained on a 2015 trip at the Shanghai international airport.
Xinyue claimed to be a world-renowned body-mind-spirit guru author of the movement’s Vancouver-published eponymous “bible”. Social media profiles showed scenes of Xinyue and serene people in the lotus position.
But the reality resembled something out of a James Bond spy thriller.
Photos and videos show members brandishing weapons, including a Ruger Mark IV handgun and prohibited weapons like a Sturmgewehr (StG) 44 assault rifle. Some wear military uniforms with a shoulder patch not unlike the wolf on certain People’s Liberation Army uniforms. The Salt Spring boot camp is actually Create Abundance’s “Elite Forces Training Program”, which sometimes held sessions at Richmond’s World Champion Club. The combat sports gym by the Fraser River was managed by Paul King Jin, a banned-from-casinos boxing coach, who boasted to police of his loan sharking.
Xinyue is not the only larger-than-life character here. Enter Shao Weinan, also known as Daemon Law, and Di Lin, also known as “Lynn”. The husband and wife duo looked like China’s version of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Lynn, a CCP member, recruits for Create Abundance, which rebranded as “The Global Spiritualist Association”. The 2016-registered TGSA’s society registration stated its goals included raising money through “fees, donations, functions, gifts, bequests or other means to carry out the purpose of the Association”.
According to media reports, Daemon chairs the Canada-Youth Leaders Foundation and is active in the Elite Forces Training Program. Back in China, Lynn worked for the State Organs Work Committee and the Ministry of Finance.
In 2013, Lynn supposedly resigned after meeting Daemon, who was believed to work for the Department of Electronic Commerce, under the umbrella of the Belt and Road Initiative. Together they arrived in Vancouver in 2014, a year before the Beijing Abundance Foundation’s state approval.
The tentacles of TGSA even reached into uranium and gold mines and even a prostate clinic at Vancouver General Hospital. TGSA flogged a product called Amana Nutraceuticals, manufactured by PharmaPlanter Technologies.
The biopharmaceutical maker purports to specialize in cancer drugs and scored more than $1.5 million in research grants since 2017. Its board includes cult leader Xinyue Zhang’s husband, Zhong Guo, Create Abundance members Dr Gongbo Li, and Hongwei Cheng. Their scientific advisor is Dr Poul Sorenson, a molecular pathologist and scientist with the Vancouver General Hospital’s Vancouver Prostate Centre. The centre boasts a deal with BGI Genomics, the Chinese state-run genome sequencing company that 60 Minutes viewers learned is considered a national security risk in the US.
Former military researcher Gongbo Li wears another hat—as CEO of Carlincore Resources Ltd., the company behind BNT Gold Resources Ltd., a player in the Yukon Territory gold fields. He has also donated $4,100 to the Liberal Party of Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s party.
WHAT ARE THEY DOING?
Was the cult the brainchild of the CCP’s United Front Work Department—which reports directly to the CCP’s Central Committee—so as to enable covert operations in Canada and elsewhere?
China has its eyes on Canada’s resource-rich Arctic, some 40% of the country’s landmass, and the coastline for the Northwest Passage shipping route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific. It was dealt a setback in 2020 when national security concerns led Canada’s federal government to block the Shandong Gold Mine acquisition.
Was the cult a convenient distraction from the mining and the medical ventures?
What about the guns and cars and military training on sleepy Salt Spring Island? Training youth for combat is contrary to western sensibilities, but military summer schools are common in China.
All of this leads to the ultimate question. While IHIT searches for clues to Bo Fan’s murder, Create Abundance is now the focus of Canada’s counter-terrorism force, the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team.
What did Bo Fan know about any of this and why was she murdered?
Scott McGregor is an Intelligence Expert and Consultant. He is a former Canadian Armed Forces Intelligence Operator and Intelligence Advisor to the RCMP’s E-Division Federal Serious Crimes.
Ina Mitchell and Bob Mackin are Investigative Journalists.