Chris Alexander: China Against the Rule of Law

More on Senators Woo, Harder and Boehm. Again, given the release of the two Michaels, time for them to take a tougher line on Chinese government actions such as extensive arbitrary detention, crushing democracy in Hong Kong, and the ongoing repression of Uighurs:

On the same day Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor arrived home, the Honourable Yuen Pau Woo, an independent senator appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016, tweeted an invitation to Canadians to savour the happy moment. He also congratulated Canada’s ambassador Dominic Barton, and suggested there was “an opportunity to reflect on lessons learned.”

Without offering any didactic points of his own, the honourable senator provided a link to an opinion piece from the Toronto Star whose core message was that “the United States, assisted by Canada, took Meng hostage in the first place as part of its trade-and-technology war with China (…).” “Should Ottawa have arrested Meng in the first place?” asked author Wenran Jiang, an advisory board member of the Toronto-based Institute for Peace & Diplomacy. “Why did this final package deal take so long if a ‘hostage exchange’ is the result?” 

This senator’s choice of lessons was unsurprising. In June of this year, he was instrumental in defeating a Senate motion to recognize China’s genocide against the Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims — contradicting the elected House of Commons, which passed a similar measure in February by a vote of 266 to zero. Senator Woo then side-stepped discussion of a proposed boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, arguing politics should not influence sporting events. Again, this went against a unanimous motion of Canada’s House of Commons on February 22, 2021 calling “upon the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Olympic Games” in light of the continuing genocide against Uighurs and others.

Yuen Pau Woo was joined in these arguments by senators Peter Boehm and Peter Harder, both seasoned diplomats, who also urged Canada to suspend its judgement with regard to China’s persecution of the Uighurs. This includes the use of concentration camps and forced labour, as well as the repression of language, culture and religion. These are all blatant acts committed with the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” as the 1951 Genocide Convention defines this “odious scourge.”

Throughout this unfortunate saga, Beijing has had a Greek chorus of supporters across Canada — mostly from people with well-remunerated corporate or political backgrounds — for the preposterous notion of a “prisoner exchange” that would get relations with China back to “normal.”

In the end, the Senate’s genocide motion failed by a vote of 29 in favour to 33 opposed, with 13 abstentions. China’s Foreign Ministry praised Woo, Boehm and Harder as “people of vision” who had seen through the “despicable schemes of a few anti-China forces.” The “clumsy trick of attacking China for selfish political gains” and “the hype of ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is unpopular and doomed to fail,” the Foreign Ministry spokesperson crowed.

Had Woo, a former president and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, and the “two Peters,” both former deputy ministers of foreign affairs, voted in favour, the Senate’s genocide motion would have passed. Instead all three chose, on an issue directly threatening the identity and lives of millions, to take the position of the Communist Party of China over one unanimously endorsed by Canada’s elected House of Commons — all in the empty hope of getting back to “normal” with Beijing.

The truth is that “normal” in the People’s Republic of China, at least since 1959, has never included the rule of law. From China’s ferocious and brutal invasion of Tibet that same year, through the murderous Great Leap Forward ending in 1962, to the decade-long Cultural Revolution up to Mao’s death in 1976 (and beyond), China has been a legal void. Serious judicial reforms never featured in Deng Xiaoping’s economic relaunch. On the contrary, basic rights were decimated, as Tibetan, Mongolian, Uighur and other refugees attest.

According to Freedom House, the current General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping’s relentless push for all-encompassing surveillance and censorship has made China the worst environment in the world for internet freedomfor the seventh year running. Compliance with such global gag orders is enforced by the CCP’s Orwellian digital panopticon, the notorious United Front Work Department, which seeks to browbeat, buy, corrupt, blackmail, extort or otherwise leverage people and firms with connections to China in support of Xi’s agenda.

Thanks to United Front subterfuge, some prominent Canadians still take China’s side, even as Beijing’s favourability score in Canadian public opinion plummeted to 14 per cent, mirroring a worldwide nosedive for China’s image driven by the two Michaels’ ordeal and Beijing’s “wolf warrior” belligerence.

Canada has a decidedly mixed record of confronting outrages by Beijing’s Communist rulers. On the one hand, we fought in Korea. But on the other hand, Norman Bethune and Pierre Trudeau remain bywords for indifference to the brutality of Chinese Communists under Mao.

Self-indulgent aloofness has cost us. Huawei’s rise was reportedly fuelled by massive theft of intellectual property from Nortel, once the darling of Canada’s tech industry. Canadians were among the first to be disenfranchised by the demise of democracy and the rule of law in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, China’s merchandise exports to Canada remain nearly triple what we export to them, even as 115 Canadians languish in Chinese jails, including Uighur activist Huseyin Celil and four others who are on death row

Today’s China under Xi uses strong-arm tactics straight out of Soviet Cold War playbooks. From Cambodia to the Czech Republic, it is corrupting democratic politicsand tilting cyber-space to boost United Front agitprop. (Though ironically, China’s level of global ambition is rising just as its growth path starts to look unsustainable.)

The Meng Wanzhou saga should remind us that the rule of law, which China lacks, remains a crucial “distinction with a difference” between us. In a tweet back in April, Senator Woo urged Canada and China to “recognize the legitimacy of each other’s judicial system.” Yet of eight principles constituting the rule of law identified by a former Lord Chief Justice of the United Kingdom, China today fulfills barely two.

Despite all the speculation about political interference and “diplomatic triangulation,” it was Canada’s rule of law that ultimately prevailed in the cases of Meng Wanzhou, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. The deferred prosecution agreement Meng ultimately accepted had been on the table for years: she reportedly elected to take it when her legal team learned the B.C. court was likely to make a ruling in October clearing the way for her extradition.

Rather than face a full U.S. trial, Meng exercised an option that had been available since early 2019. This leaves Meng free, but Huawei still in legal jeopardy. Meanwhile, the costs to China’s reputation worldwide and Huawei’s global business have been asymmetrical, astronomical and devastating. Any illusions about progress towards independent Chinese justice institutions have been shattered, as the reality of genocide and repression across China come into ever sharper focus.

Democratic politics glories in disagreement. But democratic politicians that parrot the propaganda of dictators do unnecessary discredit to our institutions. Meng Wanzhou enjoyed every benefit of the rule of law in confessing to having misled U.S. authorities about Huawei’s attempts to skirt Iran-related sanctions. The two Michaels did not.

Canada’s answer to their ordeal should be to relocate or boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics: the ghastly legacy of Hitler’s 1936 horror show requires that states committing genocide never host Olympic Games.

This is the least we can do for repressed Uighur Muslims, Tibetans, Mongolians and others still facing erasure by genocide, as well as Hong King’s brave democratic activists, many of whom who are now in jail or in exile. These persecuted people revere the rule of law in Canada as the real hero in this drama. Indeed, in the face of China’s drum roll of threats, our institutions held up remarkably well, despite the best efforts of a number of prominent Canadians to undermine them.

Our principled commitment to upholding the rule of law in China starts now — by fulfilling the commitment our democratically-elected representatives made to ensure Olympic Games are not held in a country now perpetrating genocide.

Chris Alexander was Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (2013-15) and Parliamentary Secretary for National Defence (2011-13). He served for 12 years in Canadian embassies in Russia and Afghanistan, wrote The Long Way Back: Afghanistan’s Quest for Peace (2011) and recently released Ending Pakistan’s Proxy War in Afghanistan. He is a Distinguished Fellow for the Canadian International Council.

Source: https://email.mg1.substack.com/c/eJxVUk2P4jAM_TX01iof_aCHHGany0yZLWg1wA5cqjRJaSAkVZtSyq_fDOxlpTi2nu1nyc-MWnE03URa01vv-yvt1AqixdgrYa3ovKEXXSk5gSCBaQQSjxOQIJZUnuzLuhPiQqUiXjtUSjJqpdHf1QkAGHkNiWGF4phDkEY0SVg6D2PG0TyCUYzqOU-fM-nApdBMEKPVVLZUck-Rxtq2n-GXGVq4ZxuhpBZBP1S9pewcMHNxcOuMNZ3sfarEjWouOp81UlOfHqnUvfVd4wwvrDkLPcOZmJaQod30hdQ5P5lbkbHberMdV9Mo2Vt654u0Pbzm8SrLXS4fi_vPPr-ohjus2Ozvxb2ARbYf15-jpF-ru-OQ7H0nf23YWGTFlEvHg3fygX_zvcLp8Gdx4m_qWsllGmz9KL9uPny2iq757-vwsa7BarecXn40Z4pND9X7jR62m8zuPUkQQBACEEKEAYgDFIQpCgGoBWJ0XoEYBSkzp7kZq1kILkf433q8jriFdGJUx07WtbSNK5JMmYE_0k6y0vnLoKWdSqFppQQnthuEZ58H8dC2PAotOncovKSWwBhjHIEYAhc91XNyhwgCBDD03HxuXJcm_wT7C6NFzsw

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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