Kidd: Boycotting the next Olympics in Beijing will hurt athletes: Here’s a better idea [no, its not]

More naiveté regarding China and the IOC. Ironically, Kidd’s example of the 1936 Berlin Olympics underlines the weakness of his proposed approach:

With the Tokyo Olympics coming to an end, human rights activists are expected to step up their campaign against the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing in protest against the genocide of the Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking people in Xinjiang, the colonization of Tibet and the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong. They will call upon the International Olympic Committee to cancel or move the Games that start in just six months, and if that fails, they’ll urge athletes to boycott. 

As frightening as those human rights abuses are, they’re not likely to persuade the IOC or athletes to change their plans for Beijing. Cancelling, moving or boycotting the Beijing Olympics runs counter to the very purpose and history of the Olympic movement and places athletes in an untenable position.

Choosing a different strategy

Given the almost constant tensions in world politics and international sports, boycotts and threats of boycotts have almost been an accepted feature of the modern Olympics. The first occurred at the inaugural Games in Athens in 1896, when German gymnasts known as “turners” refused to participate because most of the events were British sport.

There have been feminist boycotts (British women stayed away from Amsterdam in 1928 when the IOC reneged on its promise to add 10 women’s events to the athletics program), podium protests against racism (Tommie Smith, John Carlos and other U.S. athletes in 1968), so-called recognition boycotts (Taiwan left in 1976 when the IOC refused to call it the “Republic of China”), anti-apartheid boycotts (29 African and Caribbean teams walked out of the Montreal Olympics in 1976 to protest a New Zealand rugby tour of apartheid South Africa) and Cold War boycotts in 1956, 1980, 1984 and 1988.

In 1936, an international coalition of socialists, labour unions and churches not only mounted a highly visible boycott campaign against the staging of the Games in Nazi Germany, but tried to hold a counter-Olympics in Barcelona. It was only cancelled when the Spanish general Francisco Franco led an armed attack upon the city on the morning of the opening ceremonies, starting what became the bitter, three-year Spanish Civil War.

While the Olympic movement is not indifferent to human rights, it seeks to bring representatives of every community in the world together for peaceful dialogue and sports — recognizing that there are very real political and ideological differences among nations.

To build such a big, inclusive tent, it makes few demands upon National Olympic Committees, the international federations that govern the sports or the host countries. It’s the sporting equivalent of the long-held principle of “non-intervention” in the internal affairs of nation states.

As the world has begun to contemplate the obligation of the international community to safeguard citizens from an abusive national state, activists are calling on the IOC to apply and enforce human rights upon National Olympic Committees, federations and host countries. That battle is far from won.

The IOC has been able to withstand boycotts because it selects its own members, a grossly undemocratic process that ironically has enabled it to stand up to the strongest governments. In 1980, in the face of intense pressure from U.S. President Jimmy Carter to cancel or move the Moscow Olympics, the IOC voted unanimously to go ahead. 

While most athletes are concerned with human rights, an earlier generation learned in 1980 that governments, corporations and human rights activists are quick to volunteer them for symbolic actions, only to find that they’re the only ones who actually sacrificed something important.

In 1980, the government of Pierre Trudeau forced Canadian athletes to stay home, despite their strong objection, and then cut their funds afterwards. The oral history of that bitter experience looms large in the informal discussions about the proposed Beijing boycott currently taking place among Canadian athletes.

A way forward without boycotting

Is there a way for the Olympic community to attend the Games without legitimizing atrocities in China? As an Olympian and an academic who has studied the Olympic movement for decades, I believe there is.

Instead of the IOC knuckling under host country repression, as it did in Beijing in 2008 and Sochi in 2014, it should ensure that the freedom of expression now guaranteed in the revised Rule 50 should be respected during the 2022 Winter Olympics. Activists should insist that no one will be penalized under the revised rule.

Secondly, the IOC should affirm the importance of human rights and full intercultural exchange in the opening ceremonies and the schedule of events and meetings in the Olympic Village, as modern Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin always intended. That would give athletes and others concerned about human rights the opportunity to express their views freely with other Olympic participants and their hosts without constraint.

There is Olympic precedent that needs to be remembered and strengthened. In 1936, when he arrived in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany for the Winter Olympics, IOC president Henri Baillet-Latour found the city plastered with anti-Semitic, Nazi propaganda. He immediately met with Adolf Hitler and demanded that the posters and flags be taken down.

Hitler is said to have replied: “When one visits a home, one doesn’t immediately ask the host to redecorate.” Baillet-Latour rejoined: “Yes, Mr. Chancellor, but when the Olympics is held, it’s not a national city but an Olympic city, and should be held according to Olympic rules. The propaganda must come down.” It did.

Baillet-Latour also established the requirement that the host country must recognize every participant duly entered by a National Olympic Committee, regardless of their background, a stipulation that ensured full participation in Berlin and during the Cold War.

In the end, the 1936 Games were a tremendous propaganda victory for Hitler, and the world lost sight of the safeguards won by the IOC. But an updated version of that strategy would be useful today.

The IOC should make it clear that while it’s grateful to China for hosting the Winter Olympics, the Olympic movement guarantees the right to free speech — including the condemnation of genocide and other abuses — within the Olympic precincts. Activists should support it.

It would be an important step on the long road to human rights.


Immigration New Zealand hires 100 as Beijing office shuts

Part of other office closures (Mumbai, Manila and Pretoria) given reduced volumes, with more “anchoring” of visa processing and “strengthening our risk and verification”.

INZ shed more than 300 jobs overseas as it shut branches in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but recruitment had been on hold due to financial constraints.

It today announced its Beijing visa processing office would shut by the end of July, joining closures in Mumbai, Manila and Pretoria earlier this year.

Before Covid-19 struck, the Beijing office decided half of all New Zealand’s temporary visas.

One overseas visa processing office will remain – in Samoa – when the branch in China closes, although risk and verification staff will continue to work in other offshore locations.

“This is a continuation of INZ’s adaptation to the impact of Covid-19,” a spokesperson said.

“INZ is taking this opportunity to reduce costs, introduce advanced technology to improve efficiency, manage offshore risk more effectively and move visa processing activities onshore.”

Some of the newly recruited staff in New Zealand are understood to have been taken on to process residence applications.

The government asked for 50,000 to 60,000 new residents to be approved in the last 18 months under the residence programme (NZRP).

The NZRP is the framework for granting residence to skilled, family and humanitarian migrants. With one month left before the NZRP expires, it is 3500 away from the lowest end of that range.

In a statement, INZ said that from January 2020 to last month it had approved 46,562 people for residence.

“INZ continues to ensure that resourcing for the processing of skilled residence applications remains in line with the levels agreed to under the previous NZRP, as agreed with the previous Minister of Immigration,” INZ border and visa operations general manager Nicola Hogg said.

“Skilled residence applications are processed in INZ’s Manukau office. As at 21 May 2021, 85 immigration officers are responsible for processing skilled residence applications. Residence applications take time to process given how much there is at stake and the level of scrutiny required for each application.

“Recruitment throughout Immigration New Zealand’s onshore visa processing network is under way, with 100 vacancies recently being filled. This recruitment will allow INZ to increase its onshore visa processing capacity.”

The government is reviewing how it will draw up residence targets in future, alongside policy work on the skilled migrant category.

Among skilled migrant residence visas, the number of residents decided last month fell to 658, down from a high of 1925 in November. Rejection rates increased from 7 percent to 21 percent over the same period.

A quarter of applicants have been waiting two years for a decision.

For the past two months since March 2021, INZ has been working on applications made in August 2019.

Source: Immigration New Zealand hires 100 as Beijing office shuts

Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

Of note. Right call:

Groups alleging human-rights abuses against minorities in China are calling for a full-blown boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, a move likely to ratchet up pressure on the International Olympic Committee, athletes, sponsors and sports federations.

A coalition representing Uyghurs, Tibetans, residents of Hong Kong and others issued a statement Monday calling for the boycott, eschewing lesser measures that had been floated like “diplomatic boycotts” and further negotiations with the IOC or China.

“The time for talking with the IOC is over,” Lhadon Tethong of the Tibet Action Institute said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. “This cannot be games as usual or business as usual; not for the IOC and not for the international community.”

The Beijing Games are set to open on Feb. 4, 2022, just six months after the postponed Summer Olympics in Tokyo are to end.

Rights groups have met several times in the last year with the IOC, asking that the games be removed from China. A key member in those talks was Zumretay Arkin of the World Uyghur Congress.

Tethong, herself, was detained and deported from China in 2007 — a year before the Beijing Summer Olympics — for leading a campaign for Tibet.

“The situation where we are now is demonstrably worse that it was then,” Tethong said, pointing out that the IOC said the 2008 Olympics would improve human rights in China. “If the games go ahead, then Beijing gets the international seal of approval for what they are doing.”

The push for a boycott comes a day before a joint hearing in the U.S. Congress focusing on the Beijing Olympics and China’s human-rights record, and just days after the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said boycotts are ineffective and only hurt athletes.

“People have worked to engage with the IOC in good faith to have them understand the issues directly from the mouths of those most impacted — the Uyghurs at the top of that list and the Tibetans and others,” Tethong said. “It’s clear the IOC is completely uninterested in what the real impacts on the ground for people are.”

The IOC has repeatedly said it must be “neutral” and stay out of politics. The Switzerland-based body is essentially a sports business, deriving about 75% of its income from selling broadcast rights, and 18% more from sponsors. It also has observer status at the United Nations.

“We are not a super-world government,” IOC President Thomas Bach said recently.

China’s foreign ministry has criticized “the politicization of sports” and has said any boycott is “doomed to failure.” China has denied accusations of genocide against the Uyghur people.

A recent U.S. State Department report stated explicitly that “genocide and crimes against humanity” have taken place in the past year against Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities in the western region of Xinjiang.

Tethong said she knows some athletes may be opposed. But she said others, who gained traction from Black Lives Matter movement, may become allies. She acknowledged this as a “gloves-off” moment.

“There are obviously a lot of people who are concerned about the athletes and their lifelong work,” Tethong said. “But in the end it’s the IOC that has put them in this position and should be held accountable.”

American skier Mikaela Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, spelled out the dilemma for athletes in a recent interview on CNN.

“You certainly don’t want to be put in the position of having to choose between human rights like morality versus being able to do your job,” she said.

Tethong suggested coalition members might lobby the IOC’s top 15 sponsors, American network NBC, which generates about 40% of all IOC revenue, sports federations, civil society groups “and anyone that will listen.”

Activists have already singled out IOC sponsor Airbnb for attention.

“First is the moral question,” Tethong said. “Is it OK to host an international goodwill sporting event such as the Olympic Games while the host nation is committing genocide just beyond the stands?”

In meetings with the IOC, activists say they have asked to see documents in which China has given “assurances” about human rights conditions. Activists say the IOC has not produced the documents.

The IOC included human rights requirements several years ago in the host city contract for the 2024 Paris Olympics, but it did not include those guidelines — the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights — for Beijing. Paris is the first Olympics to contain the standards, long pushed for by human rights groups.

Last week, human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unimpeded access for U.N. experts.

At the meeting, Britain’s U.N. Ambassador, Barbara Woodward, called the situation in Xinjiang “one of the worst human rights crises of our time.”

“The evidence points to a program of repression of specific ethnic groups,” Woodward said. “Expressions of religion have been criminalized and Uyghur language and culture are discriminated against systematically and at scale.”

Source: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

Ottawa says it only learned Chinese police ran visa centre this year

Appears to be lack of due diligence as should have been caught earlier:

Ottawa says it only learned in February that Canada’s visa-application centre in Beijing is managed by Chinese police, the same month The Globe and Mail reported the arrangement.

The federal government has trusted its visa centre in Beijing to a police-owned company since 2008, and has been required to conduct due-diligence screenings during renewals of the contract in subsequent years including 2018.

The government acknowledged its lack of awareness in documents tabled in the House of Commons this week in response to written questions from NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan.

“In February, 2021, Public Services and Procurement became aware that Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service Company is ultimately owned by the Beijing Public Security Bureau,” the government said in an answer to Ms. Kwan that was signed by Steven MacKinnon, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement.

The Globe reported the ownership structure of the company managing the visa-application centre on Feb. 8.

Ottawa said in the documents that government officials have conducted three site visits to visa-application centres in China “since becoming aware of the subcontractor ownership,” according to another response to Ms. Kwan signed by Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

Ms. Kwan said she’s surprised by the government’s admission. “That to me is absolutely shocking. … How on Earth did they not know about the ownership structure?”

She blamed both the Liberal government and previous Conservative government for failing to stop this arrangement and said she remains concerned about how Canada can safeguard visa applicants’ private and confidential information. “I fear for the applicants who use the Canadian government’s services there.”

Canada’s visa-application centre in Beijing is operated by Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service Company, which is owned by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, The Globe discovered. And at least some of the people working inside the centre are members of the Chinese Communist Party, recruited from a school that trains the next generation of party elite.

Beijing Shuangxiong is a subcontractor for VFS Global, a company headquartered in Zurich and Dubai that holds a wide-reaching contract to provide visa-processing services around the world for the Canadian government. VFS offices collect personal and biometric information that is then forwarded to Canadian immigration officials for decisions on who will be granted visas.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has given no indication that it intends to end the Beijing arrangement.

Alexander Cohen, press secretary for Mr. Mendicino, said Wednesday that Immigration officials regularly audit and inspect visa-application centres for compliance, including through unannounced audits, and that video cameras are used for ongoing monitoring.

He said no privacy breaches have been reported at these centres by those operating them and that VFS Global has complied with all security requirements in its contract. “Since 2018, [the Immigration department] has conducted over 20 site visits to visa-application centres in China,” Mr. Cohen said.

The government had acknowledged earlier this year that it was unaware from the start of the contract that Chinese police ultimately owned the company that is the facilities manager of the Beijing visa-application centre. At the time, though, it did not reveal when precisely it learned of the matter.

Richard Fadden, a former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, who served as national security adviser to two prime ministers, has said that Ottawa should end the visa situation in Beijing.

“An instrument of the Chinese government has access to a facility in China with connections to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada,” he said. “I cannot think of a more promising entry point for China’s cyberspies.”

The 2018 contract was not the first time VFS and affiliated companies had won federal contracts to operate visa-application centres, including the ones in China. Earlier contracts were awarded under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. And during parliamentary hearings in February, MPs learned that Beijing Shuangxiong has actually provided facilities and staff for Canada’s visa-application centre in China’s capital since 2008.

VFS told the hearings it informed Ottawa in 2008 that it intended to use Beijing Shuangxiong as the local subcontractor, or as it calls the company, its local facility-management company.

However, two former Conservative immigration ministers Jason Kenney, now the Premier of Alberta, as well as Chris Alexander, have told The Globe that they were unaware the subcontractor for the visa-application centre in Beijing was a company owned by the Chinese police.

“There was a public tendering process, and as you know there can be no political interference in tendering. If this happened during my tenure and I had been made aware of it, obviously I would have stopped it,” Mr. Kenney told The Globe earlier this year.

Mr. Alexander, for his part, said: “I was never informed of this arrangement in Beijing: it should never have happened. No state body in any region should be controlling access to our immigration or any other programs.”

Jeremy McIntee, a spokesman for former Conservative immigration minister Diane Finley, who was in charge of the department in 2008, said she does not recall whether she was informed of the subcontractor’s ownership.

VFS has said it is obligated to use local partners under Chinese law. It has also said it conducts “deep identity, credit, criminal, residency, education and employment checks” on employees, uses encrypted systems to send application information to Canadian servers, and employs a raft of measures to secure information, including an obligation for employees to hand over mobile phones to managers inside the visa centre.

Beijing Shuangxiong also acts as a subcontracted facility manager for VFS in Beijing for other Western countries, including New Zealand, Britain and Ireland. Immigration New Zealand has said it knew “from the outset” that the Beijing police have ownership of Beijing Shuangxiong.

VFS spokesman Peter Brun has previously said the Chinese companies it works with “are managed by VFS Global and we ensure they operate entirely according to all VFS Global security processes and protocols, and according to the Canadian government’s visa-application process and data-protection requirements, which are audited regularly by the Canadian government.”


Canadian doctor once posted to Beijing ignored by Ottawa after offering help with COVID-19 response

Does seem to be an oversight. The more serious one is why was he not replaced (likely due to budget pressures and the high cost, and changing priorities):

For seven years, Felix Li served on the distant front lines of Canadian public health, in China. As a doctor posted to Beijing, he fostered ties with health authorities that let him peer beneath the official rhetoric of a country that has been the source of multiple viral epidemics in recent decades.

When Dr. Li returned to Canada in 2015 and retired from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) after 23 years, he was not replaced.

But he retained his contacts inside the Chinese public health system and was keen to help when another outbreak began to emerge.

So, a few days after the Jan. 23 lockdown of Wuhan, he sent an e-mail to the PHAC, including Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam, offering his expertise.

“I offered to go back to Ottawa to work with them on this. I needed to help, to save lives,” Dr. Li said in an interview.

In the e-mail, he described his knowledge of the Chinese system and the contacts he maintains there.

“I got an e-mail back saying, ‘We’ll talk about it and let you know.’ But I never had any response after that.”

Instead, the PHAC has relied heavily on the World Health Organization for information and guidance in its response to the rapid spread of the deadly new virus.

But critics have questioned the relationship between the WHO and China, whose response the WHO has praised effusively. The health organization has raised few public concerns about the reliability of information provided by Beijing, despite evidence suggesting Chinese authorities have significantly underreported the death toll from the outbreak.

Dr. Li said that, during his time in China, there was a difference in “the quality of the information” he was able to obtain by communicating directly with people at China’s Ministry of Health and the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. During the 2013 H7N9 avian influenza outbreak, for example, he received updates directly from Chinese officials.

Were he working now, he’d “probably get a lot more timely and accurate information on things,” he said.

There is good reason to seek more sources of information, public health experts say.

“In any acute emergency, there is always benefit of ‘on the ground’ expertise and contacts in getting access to data and understanding the nuances of actual context. There is also always value in having multiple sources of data, information or intelligence, and it would be wise to have as many sources as possible,” said James Orbinski, director of York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research.

“Relying on one source of information for critical decision making leaves you open to all of its biases and limitations, and every source – even ‘official’ ones, like the WHO, the government of China, the CIA, the government of the United States, the government of Canada – has biases and limitations.”

The PHAC says it has full confidence in its methods – and in the WHO. “With the situation related to COVID-19 continuing to evolve rapidly around the world, Canada will continue to work closely with its international partners, including the WHO and China, as well as with provincial and territorial counterparts to reduce risks to Canadians and the global community,” spokesperson Anna Maddison said in an e-mailed statement.

The agency can rely on Canada’s foreign service “to share and gather information related to health and public health matters,” Ms. Maddison said.

Canada’s embassies and consulates in China, however, have been working with low staffing levels after non-essential staff – including provincial representatives – were sent home.

Unlike the U.S., Canada does not have a wide-reaching global public health service, which makes it reliant upon the WHO. That’s not a bad thing, said Srinivas Murthy, an infectious disease specialist at the University of British Columbia who has worked with the WHO.

“The WHO is a very reputable, very strong organization which has that capacity,” Dr. Murthy said. “I don’t think Canada specifically needs a foreign public health agency.”

But there are also risks in relying on an agency that itself relies on information from China, a country where statistics are often bent to political imperatives. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has itself been criticized for cutting its staff in China by two-thirds before the COVID-19 outbreak.

In Canada, meanwhile, it appears health leaders are not receiving sufficient advice on the potential weaknesses of Chinese data being transmitted by the WHO, said Charles Burton, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute who has twice worked out of the Canadian embassy in Beijing.

The result is that China’s “politically motivated misinformation tragically leads to unnecessary Canadian deaths,” he said.

Dr. Li began his public health work in Beijing in 2008 with the belief that “Canada should not be responding to epidemics or pandemics when they reach the shores of Canada. We should be proactively working with China.”

He declined to offer his views on how China and Canada have responded to COVID-19, for fear of damaging his relationships with public health officials he still hopes to work alongside.

“As a medical doctor and a public health doctor, our task is to save lives. If I were called upon, I’d jump on the next plane to Ottawa,” he said.

Source: Canadian doctor once posted to Beijing ignored by Ottawa after offering help with COVID-19 response

Our reply to the co-chairs: Petition to reconsider location of the 2020 International Metropolis migration conference in Beijing

Further to our petition on and the email received from the co-chairs of the Conference, Jan Rath of the University of Amsterdam and Paul Spoonley, Massey University New Zealand, we have sent and posted on our reply:

Thank you for your comprehensive and thoughtful response to our questions and concerns.

Under normal circumstances, holding a migration conference in China would be of interest.

Equally, in principle we do not disagree that cultural, academic and policy exchanges can sometimes be useful in generating shifts in repressive regimes and that isolation only worsens and alienates such regimes. 

However, this depends on the subject matter and country circumstances.

Is it appropriate to hold a migration conference, where so many issues are linked to human rights, in a country which does not enshrine human rights and the associated values of promoting integration, tolerance, academic freedom, multiculturalism, and protection of refugees?

While Metropolis may view itself as an apolitical network, the host organization in China, the Centre for China and Globalization (CCG), is not, as it is effectively part of the Chinese government through the United Front Work Department.

The decision to hold the conference in Beijing at a time of the repression of the Uighurs and other minorities along with general human rights abuses is in itself a political decision to turn a blind eye to those abuses. 

There can be little doubt that it will be presented as such by the Chinese government. We are also convinced, based on experience, that Chinese authorities will not permit a free and open exchange of ideas on relevant Chinese policy or practice. Foreign speakers will be discouraged from raising issues that might ‘offend’ the government, Chinese participants will be prohibited from doing so, and ‘minders’ will be present to monitor and intervene in the event of any real or perceived criticism.

While indeed all countries have “blemishes in its policies and actions,” there is a difference between China and the countries that have typically hosted Metropolis. 

Placing restrictive immigration policies among Western countries on the same level as the Chinese government “re-education” camps for Uighurs or its lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law lacks credibility.

The bilateral disputes between China and Canada have nothing to do with broader issues raised by the petition and its signatories.

To claim that “the Government of China is not involved in setting the agenda or the terms of the debate” when the host organization, the CCG, is effectively part of the Government of China, is not credible.

Once again, the decision to hold the Conference in China given the current circumstances is in itself a political decision and it is disingenuous if not naive to pretend otherwise.

Once again, grateful that you consider signing the petition ( and spreading the word as the more signatures we get, and the broader the geographic coverage, the better (as of November 15, we have about 150 signatories, about 70 percent from Canada with the vast majority of the rest being from the US.


Response to our petition to reconsider location of the 2020 International Metropolis migration conference in Beijing

Further to our petition on, the co-chairs of the Conference, Jan Rath of the University of Amsterdam and Paul Spoonley, Massey University New Zealand, provided the following response:

The International Metropolis Project has been made aware of a petition urging that Metropolis change the location of our 2020 annual conference which is  planned for Beijing in June. The argument that the petition expresses concerns about  the position and actions taken by the Government of China with respect to some of the country’s ethnic minorities and with respect to freedom of expression. Let it be said that Metropolis understands these concerns, which have long been voiced, and takes them seriously. But let it also be said that Metropolis has always been – and remains – an apolitical network that believes in the value of international exchange among a whole range of migration players and stakeholders, to enhance mutual understanding. It also believes in engagement and dialogue over isolation. We, therefore, stand by the decision to accept the offer of the Beijing-based think tank, the Centre for China and Globalization, to host the Metropolis Conference in 2020.

China has emerged not only as a major economic power in the world, but also as a country with a significant role in migration, whether in Asia or globally. For us to understand regional and global migration means understanding China’s role in migration, both as a country of origin and, more recently, a country of destination. To ignore China in the field of migration today is to have but a partial understanding of global migration phenomena. An International Metropolis Conference there offers a direct opportunity for members of the Metropolis network to meet and engage with their counterparts in that country and in the region, and vice-versa. We trust that this will foster an enhanced mutual understanding of migration developments.

The petition that asks Metropolis to re-locate the 2020 conference originates in Canada, which is now engaged in a sensitive and difficult diplomatic matter with China. This is no matter for Metropolis to get involved with. Furthermore, that Metropolis should choose to hold its conferences in any particular country is not to be taken as support for the policies of our host country, regardless of which country it is. No country is without blemishes in its policies and actions, not even those with enviable reputations regarding migration. That is why, engaging in international exchanges of the kind that Metropolis conferences facilitate is important to keep the dialogue going and to map out issues of interest  and concern in an informed manner. The 2020 Metropolis Conference in Beijing is being organized jointly by the Metropolis International Steering Committee and the Centre for China and Globalization. The Government of China is not involved in setting the agenda or the terms of the debate. As always, the program is set by the International Steering Committee, specifically its Chairs in consultation with the local host in Beijing, China. This will therefore be a regular International Metropolis Conference located in a country that, owing to its current migration dynamics, offers a range of pertinent insights for those who take part.

As we said, although we understand the concerns expressed in the petition and we take them seriously, we regard the petition as mistaken in its position that it is better to isolate than to engage.

We will, in due course, post a formal response but suffice to say, to make the assertion that:

“The Government of China is not involved in setting the agenda or the terms of the debate. As always, the program is set by the International Steering Committee, specifically its Chairs in consultation with the local host in Beijing, China.”

The Chinese host is, of course, the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), part of the United Front Work Department, a branch of the Chinese Communist Party, that aims to project Chinese government influence.

Once again, grateful that you consider signing the petition ( and spreading the word as the more signatures we get, and the broader the geographic coverage, the better (as of November 8, we have about 140 signatories, about three quarters from Canada with the vast majority of the rest being from the US.


Petition: Reconsider location of the 2020 International Metropolis migration conference in Beijing

As you may have noticed, I have been critical of the planning committee for the International Metropolis Migration conference decision to select Beijing as the site despite the country’s regime has been a producer of refugees and the UN and Amnesty International recognizing it is actively supressing China’s ethnic minority populations.

Examples can be seen with the Muslim Uighur minority through prison camps as well as suppression of the Tibetan minority.

The regime also regularly interferes with academic freedom both at home and abroad and uses such venues to legitimize its practices.

The Canadian government, moreover, notes that Canadians should “exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

For these reasons, Howard Ramos and I have started a petition the International Metropolis conference steering committee to reconsider the location of the next conference.

We write to you to consider signing and endorsing our petition. More information and the petition can be found here:

Please share with your various networks.

International Metropolis 2019 Ottawa and 2020 Beijing

As my last International Metropolis was some 10 years ago, was curious to see how the conference has evolved since then. The overall format remains the same, plenaries in the morning, workshops in the afternoon.

My impression was that of a more interesting and thought provoking conference than those that I remember, a tribute to the IRCC team and advisory committee that developed the program.

The sessions that I found particularly of interest were:

The Indigenous acknowledgement and presence that opened Metropolis was substantive, with a strong statement by Gilbert Whiteduck, with Metropolis also having an Indigenous closing ceremony.

The plenaries that I found most interesting were: Quest for global governance: Compacts and sustainable development goals (Global Compact), Non-state actors and the migration industry, The effects of technology on migration and integration, Cities and migration, and Public confidence in migration.

These daily briefs by Munk school students are good summaries of the presentations and discussions:

June_27_Munk_School_Daily_Brief.original.1561728696 June_26_Munk_School_Daily_Brief.original.1561640630 June_25_Munk_School_Daily_Brief.original.1561555064

For the last half day, not covered by Munk, the more interesting presentations at the Cities and Migration plenary were the effects of South American migrants (e.g., Venezuela) in Ecuador, services for families remaining in the Philippines when breadwinners worked abroad, A puff presentation on the Mayors Migration Council, and to liven things up, OCASI’s Debbie Douglas on some of the uncomfortable truths on racism.

The plenaries ended strongly with the Public Confidence in Immigration session, withPew Research international comparisons, Compas on UK attitudes and that media need to recognize that they are not neutral players but play a role in public and policy debates, Canada’s Environics on Canadian distinctiveness, South African attitudes towards immigrants and the limitations of surveys based on self-reporting with respect to attitudes.

The major tech innovation since my last Metropolis is of course smart phones and apps. While the conference app had login issues for many participants (i.e., for creating individual programs etc), it had a great feature that allowed questions to be submitted, displayed on screens and “voted” upon to allow moderators to choose those questions of greatest interest. An additional advantage was that it virtually eliminated the tendency of some to abuse microphone time and ensure greater focus.

In terms of other conference management notes, some of which may reflect my circumstances, were that some data based presentations (i.e., economic impact) were done without decks making them hard to follow.

2020 International Metropolis in Beijing

The next conference will be held in Beijing under the theme: New Narratives on Global Migration: Open, Fair and Sustainable Development.

Given the ongoing suppression of Uyghur Muslims and other human rights abuses, a curious choice given that the local organizers will certainly make every effort to ensure a controversy-free event.

In terms of historical parallels, and mindful of Godwin’s law, this is comparable to the holding of an international conference on immigration and integration in Germany following the passage of the Nuremberg Race Laws  (the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor).

The dilemma for governments, academics and service provide organizations is whether they wish to participate against this backdrop. Historically, of course, countries and atheletes participated in the Berlin Olympics of 1936 despite the passage of these laws (and only saved by the medals won by Jesse Owens).

For Canadians, an additional issue remains the arbitrary detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who hopefully will be released well before then.I suspect that will be a challenge.

Source: International Metropolis Conference, Presentations