Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Conservative leadership candidates Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole, Conservative defence critic James Bezan and New Brunswick Southwest MP John Williamson have all signed on along with more than 100 political representatives and foreign policy experts from around the world.
Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald and New Brunswick cabinet minister Dominic Cardy have also added their names.
Other signatories to the letter include U.K. MP Damian Collins, who chaired the international grand committee examining privacy and social media misinformation last year, along with members of Parliament from Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, the European Parliament and the U.K.
Irwin Cotler, former Liberal justice minister and now prominent human rights advocate, was among the original list of individuals who had signed as well.
There are also several former ministers of foreign affairs, defence and home affairs, along with a broad range of civil society advocates and academics, including Canadian writer Jonathan Manthorpe.
When the letter first went up on Tuesday, no Canadian MPs had signed on despite there being representatives from other parliamentary institutions in allied countries.
No Liberal MPs or MPs from any other Canadian parties have signed the letter.
Global News reached out to MacKay, Bezan and Williamson about their decisions to sign the letter.
Williamson responded saying the Chinese government must be held to account.
“The Chinese Communist Party dictatorship is built on force and intimidation of the Chinese people and ethnic minorities. Its rulers have no fidelity to individual freedoms, transparency or the rule of law,” he wrote in an email.
“Beijing needs to be held accountable for its actions, at home and abroad, and not be treated as an ordinary member of the international community. I believe Canada’s ‘business as usual’ with mainland China should end.”
Bezan also tweeted his support.
“I’m proud to join this prestigious group of human rights leaders in condemning the communist regime in China for their coverup of the global COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote. “The regime in Beijing must be held to account for the unnecessary loss of life and crack down on innocent whistleblowers.”
MacKay tweeted on Thursday morning with a link to the letter, saying that the Chinese government “deprived the world of our chance to react.”
“They are responsible for this global pandemic,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, which co-ordinated the letter with two European think tanks, said it did not reach out asking Canadian MPs to sign on before the letter was published because it wanted to focus initially on securing signatures from academics and experts.
Now that the letter is public, though, the institute has sent an email to all Canadian parliamentarians letting them know how to sign on if they wish to do so. But the institute will not be lobbying for signatures.
“All parliamentarians are more than welcome to sign, but as MLI is an independent, non-partisan think tank, we will not be seeking them out for this or chasing down parliamentarians to sign it,” said Brett Byers, a spokesperson for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
“We see that role as more ‘activist’ in nature and not really our area.”
In the letter, signatories warn that the coronavirus crisis shows it is more important than ever to raise up and listen to independent voices in China given the regime’s silencing of experts who tried to raise alarm bells about the spread of the virus.
“China’s Chernobyl moment is a self-inflicted wound,” the letter states.
It goes on to criticize the World Health Organization as having bowed to Chinese pressure to downplay the severity of the situation.
For weeks, there have been repeated intelligence leaks casting doubt on the official case numbers reported by China to the World Health Organization.
Bloomberg first reported on April 1 that the American intelligence community concluded in a classified report for the Trump administration that China’s reporting on coronavirus cases and deaths was faked.
That report cited three U.S. intelligence officials calling the data from China “intentionally incomplete.”
Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu earlier this month attacked a journalist who asked about whether China’s data can be trusted, criticizing them as “feeding conspiracy theories.”