Parliamentary association chair defends Canada-China group as critics call for its suspension

Engage for what purpose when the two Michaels are still detained under awful conditions, repression of religious minorities such as the Uighurs continue, and China proceeds to end Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Wilful naiveté at best. Arguments mirror those used by the International Metropolis Secretariat to justify the holding of Metropolis in Beijing that our petition successfully cancelled.

These kinds of contacts should be suspended until the Michaels are released at a minimum:

As Beijing’s behaviour grows increasingly strong-willed and the Canada-China relationship continues to flounder, some are calling for the suspension of a parliamentary association between the two countries, while one of the co-chairs says the group facilitates dialogue.

The 50-member Canadian-side of the Canada-China Legislative Association, which was founded in 1998, is composed of MPs and Senators who work to “promote better understanding” in the bilateral relationship on both common interests and differences.

“There’s so much to be gained from maintaining that discussion,” Independent Senator Paul Massicotte (De Lanaudière, Que.) told The Hill Times. “We have an immense interest in this relationship—[from a] human rights point of view, economically, future growth, climate change. There’s so much to gain from our relationship, in spite of the fact that we have serious disagreements about some key issues.”

Sen. Massicotte is one of two co-chairs of the Canada-China Legislative Association. Liberal MP Han Dong (Don Valley North, Ont.), the group’s other co-chair, didn’t respond to an interview request.

“Its [purpose is] to be frank and chat with each other and maintain as good relations as we can, in spite of possible differences—in this case, serious differences between our approach as a country and our value system and their thought pattern,” Sen. Massicotte said about the association. “But just because you disagree with somebody doesn’t mean you put an end to it.”

He said if the association is suspended, the dialogue between the two countries would be damaged.

Macdonald-Laurier Institute fellow Shuvaloy Majumdar called for the association’s suspension in a National Post op-ed last week, citing China’s National Party Congress’ imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong which threatens the “one country, two systems” foundation of the region.

“Canadian Parliament has no business legitimizing the masquerade of Beijing’s National Party Congress as it institutionally represses Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and constitutional rights,” wrote Mr. Majumdar, a former policy director to multiple foreign affairs ministers in the government of then-prime minister Stephen Harper.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne (Saint-Maurice-Champlain, Que.) released a joint statement last week with his counterparts in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, calling the imposition of the national security law “a deep concern” and “in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration.”

Mr. Majumdar told The Hill Times that the parliamentary association gives the Chinese Communist Party “unrivalled access to lobby Canadian Parliamentarians.”

“If you were interested in the spirit of dialogue with the Chinese people, then why not also pursue similar arrangements with Hong Kong’s Legislative Council or with Taiwan’s Parliament in conjunction with the National Party Congress?” he noted. “That’s not happened. So this is not about dialogue.”

Mr. Majumdar added that China’s National Congress has “broken faith” with the sprit of “honest dialogue” with the imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong and that they are “subverting and distorting” an understanding of China in Canada that is coming at the cost of Canadian interests.

“It ought not to be tolerated.”

Sen. Massicotte, who met with Chinese Ambassador Cong Peiwu alongside Mr. Dong on Feb. 26, said he raises the issues of disagreement in all the meetings the association has with Chinese officials.

“You can do it politely,” he said. “You can raise up issues that you don’t agree on, but you don’t have to be disagreeable.”

“Usually we’ll say we agree to disagree because we don’t have the same starting point or same culture. We don’t brush over our differences,” said Sen. Massicotte, calling discussions with the Chinese ambassador “very cordial.”

Conservative MP Michael Cooper (St. Albert-Edmonton, Alta.), vice-chair of the Canada-China Legislative Association, said there should be a consideration to the association’s role going forward.

“I think we do need to review the activities of the legislative association,” he said. “Does that mean suspending the association? Perhaps. But we need to have those discussions in light of what needs to be and what will be a different relationship between Canada and China, at least in the short and intermediate term, as a result of the fallout of COVID-19 and the unlawful actions the Chinese Communist regime has taken against Hong Kong.”

Mr. Cooper said that there needs to be an overall evaluation of Canada’s bilateral relationship with China stemming from how Beijing handled the COVID-19 pandemic, including the use of Magnitsky sanctions on Chinese officials who were involved in “silencing and jailing whistleblowers” in the early days of the virus’ outbreak and officials “involved in the cover-up” of the pandemic.

He said the parliamentary association has not met as an executive since the start of the year.

“So at this point, the association, speaking as an executive, has been inactive,” Mr. Cooper said.

Debate over parliamentary group comes at tipping point for Canada-China relations

It was feared that a B.C. court judge ruling against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou last week on a “double criminality” principle, which continued her extradition trial, would further inflame tensions between Canada and China.

The Chinese Communist Party-supported Global Times stated that the decision would bring about the “worst-ever” period in the bilateral relationship. So far, retaliation has been muted, as reported by The Globe and Mail, with a Chinese government spokesperson commenting on the 50thanniversary of Canada-China relations

Ms. Meng was arrested in December 2018 at the behest of the United States. The arrest of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China soon followed in apparent retaliation. The two Canadians have been detained by Chinese authorities ever since.

The parliamentary association took a trip to China in January 2019 shortly after the arrests of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor, during which then-co-chair and now-retired senator Joseph Day said the detained Canadians were not on the agenda. Mr. Cooper, who was also on the trip, brought the cases up and said raising the issues didn’t help “in the sense that they are still in China,” but added at the same time that discussing the issue “did not hurt.”

Former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques, who served in the post from 2012 to 2016, said the Canada-China Legislative Association “can be useful.”

He added that it takes “a bit of guts” for Canadian Parliamentarians to raise contentious issues with Chinese authorities, noting that he has experienced foreign affairs ministers that were reticent to raise contentious issues with China.

“If it’s properly managed, we should proceed,” he said. “But, on the other hand, if something dramatic were to occur in Hong Kong, I think we will have to think about sanctions against China and then maybe the suspension of those [association] visits would be required.”

“The key is preparation,” said Mr. Saint-Jacques of when Canadian Parliamentarians in the association travel to China.

He said that when he was ambassador he would “regularly” meet with the members of the association when he returned to Ottawa to give briefings on important issues and prepare them for upcoming trips.

When the group arrived in China, the visit would start with a breakfast at the embassy to give the MPs and Senators the latest information that Canadian diplomats in China have collected before they met with Chinese officials, he said.

With Parliamentarians from many different parties and political ideologies, Mr. Saint-Jacques said it gives the Chinese officials an insight into the Canadian system where politicians don’t speak with one voice, unlike in the Chinese system.

While he said that the association can serve to legitimize the National Congress, it is better than the alternative of no contact.

“If you have no contacts, then you leave them to think that things work the same way here than over there,” he said.

Brock University professor Charles Burton, a former counsellor at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, said he has long been calling for the suspension of the association.

“I feel that we are being played by the Communist Party in this association,” said Prof. Burton, a Macdonald-Laurier Institute fellow.

He said the parliamentary association serves as a way for the Chinese government to establish “moral equivalency” between Canada’s Parliament and China’s non-democratic National Congress.

“The Members of Parliament who go have a very pleasant time in China with delicious banquets and interesting tourism … but I don’t see it as furthering the interest of Canada in any way,” he said.

Prof. Burton said Parliamentarians can engage with Chinese diplomats in Canada through other forums such as the Special House Committee on Canada-China Relations.

“Typically, Parliamentarians don’t have the expertise to represent Canada’s position effectively and tend to be put into photo-ops and make joint statements that support the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda in Canada,” he said.

Since the creation of the association, there has been no adoption of democratic reform in the National Congress, Prof. Burton said, adding that the group hasn’t had “any positive impact” on fostering the development of parliamentary democracy in China.

Source: Parliamentary association chair defends Canada-China group as critics call for its suspension

Burton: In Canada, the tide of opinion is turning on China

Good summary by former Canadian diplomat Charles Burton:

In what should be a wake-up call for the federal government, the Canadian public’s perception of China appears to be swinging dramatically.

An Angus Reid poll last week found four in five Canadians want Huawei banned from any role in building this country’s 5G network, and just 11 per cent of respondents felt Canada should focus its trade efforts on China – down from 40 per cent in 2015. And 76 per cent said Canada should prioritize human rights and the rule of law over economic opportunity.

If Ottawa has been delaying a decision all these months while it awaits the “right moment” to announce that the future of Canadian telecommunications lies with Huawei, it is now clear that moment will never come.

Our government continues to behave as if Canada-China relations will resume status quo ante once the matter of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is resolved. Earlier this year, when Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne chose an adviser for the Asia-Pacific file, he namedPascale Massot, a former senior mentor to Mr. Champagne’s predecessor Stéphane Dion. Mr. Dion was the architect of Canada’s failed policy of strategic appeasement with Russia, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia. There is no indication Ms. Massot has undergone any Damascene conversion on how best to engage the People’s Republic of China.

Last month, Canadian Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, consistent with her party’s line, vigorously defended the credibility of the PRC’s actions and reporting of COVID-19 cases, insisting, “there is no indication that the data that came out of China in terms of their infection rate and their death rate was falsified in any way.” She then told the reporter questioning her on this that they were “feeding into conspiracy theories that many people have been perpetuating on the internet.” A lot of us must be deceived by the conspiracy, as the Angus Reid poll found 85 per cent of respondents believe Beijing has not been honest about what happened in its own country regarding the novel coronavirus.

Certainly, China’s aggressive new “wolf warrior” diplomacy has the attention of Canadians. Lu Shaye, China’s former envoy in Ottawa, suggested last January that Canada and its Western allies were displaying white supremacyby calling for the release of two Canadians imprisoned since December 2018 without any coherent charges. Mr. Lu’s ridiculous, highly offensive blathering obviously went over well in Beijing, as he has since been promoted to China’s ambassador to France.

In a Global TV interview on Sunday, Mr. Lu’s successor, Cong Peiwu, linked the arrests of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – who have been denied any form of consular access (including by phone or video) since January – to the detainment of Ms. Meng, who faces extradition to the United States. Mr. Cong also refuted suggestions that the Chinese Communist Party has been intimidating or bullying its critics.

If the party has been bullying its critics, it’s not a new tactic in the grand scheme of its political activities. A report released in March by the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China and Amnesty International Canada included details of an apparent intimidation program targeting the Chinese diaspora in Canada.

Last week, Canada’s ambassador in Beijing, Dominic Barton, made headlinesafter he candidly told members of the Canadian International Council that China is alienating other countries by accumulating “negative” soft power in response to international criticism over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the response from the PRC has been both defensive and irrational.

Regrettably, the impact of this disease has led to episodes of ugly racism in Canada against Chinese-Canadians. Obviously ethnic Chinese people in Canada have no connection to the Chinese Communist Party’s alleged false reporting on the spread of the virus, which has claimed more than 300,000 lives globally. It should be a government priority that any race-based persecution in Canada is met with the full force of Canadian law.

As for Mr. Barton, while it is not his place to set Canada’s China policy (an ambassador’s job is to implement Canadian foreign policy), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has implied support for what Mr. Barton said. The fact that he hasn’t been fired for speaking out of turn – like his predecessor, John McCallum – offers some hope that this government will finally do the China-policy reset voters seem to have an appetite for.

Source: Opinion In Canada, the tide of opinion is turning on China. The Communist Party’s handling of COVID-19 has renewed contention over Huawei and the arrests of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor: Charles Burton

Burton: Trudeau government at a crossroads in its dealings with China

Burton, McCuaig-Johnston, Mulroney, Glavin and others have been making these points for some time, and questioning the government’s response to date:

The new Trudeau government’s approach to China’s Communist Party regime is rife with dilemma. Support the business and political interests of the Laurentian élite, who are entwined in and conflicted by a Beijing engagement approach that eschews established norms of trade and diplomacy? Or adhere to Canadian middle-class values that make Canada the harmonious and tolerant society it is: decency, fairness, reciprocity, honesty, openness?

Canada’s policy on China was evidently too sensitive to handle during the recent election campaign; the Munk Centre’s scheduled foreign policy debate was cancelled after Justin Trudeau refused to appear.

But now it is new beginnings for a new government, time to reflect on the horrendous failures of our past engagement with China, time to do the necessary re-set in Canada’s national interest.

Against this desperate need for an open national debate, it is disappointing to see our government engaging in closed-door policy discussions led by Peter Harder (the government leader in the Senate), current and former senior officials of Global Affairs Canada, academics who favour engagement on Beijing’s terms, and business leaders with lucrative connections to Chinese Communist business networks closed to public scrutiny.

Now it is new beginnings for a new government, time to reflect on the horrendous failures of our past engagement with China, time to do the necessary re-set in Canada’s national interest.

On Nov. 19, the Public Policy Forum (lead partner: government of Canada) charged stakeholders in Canada-China relations $900 to access a one-day workshop and dinner in Ottawa, called “China and the Policy Implications of a new Cold War.” The pricey registration fee would be well beyond the budget of Canadian Tibetan, Uyghur or China human rights NGO activists, or Canadian media outlets. That would effectively mute voices who would like to know how Canada will address the cultural genocide of Turkic Muslims in China’s northwest, or the fate of the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong, or when Canada will take strong measures to convince China to release Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.

The PPF’s mandate is to “write a more sophisticated narrative for Canadians,” leading to “a more nuanced engagement” — evidently a mysterious doctrine best developed without wider participation.

The narrative that PPF is developing is that “the rise of China is bending the arc of history,” so Canada must “adjust rapidly to changing geopolitical realities arguably as profound as anything since the rise of the United States challenged the dominance of the British Empire in the late 19th century.” This rhetoric is certainly not based on sound comparative historiography, but it is in perfect harmony with that articulated by Chinese leader Xi Jinping. He demands that Canada join China’s “community of the common destiny of mankind” and support China’s rebuild of global trade infrastructure by participating in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” because as the U.S. declines, China will become the new global hegemon.

In other words, Canada should get with the program, because, as former Liberal cabinet stalwart Martin Cauchon said regarding Huawei’s expansion, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” But China does not have a record of trust in upholding international agreements. Once Huawei is installed, billions of dollars later, any Chinese commitment to allow Canadian monitoring of Huawei systems to ensure they are not being used to purloin data, or threaten Canadian critical infrastructure, is likely to be revoked. And there won’t be much we can do about it.

On Nov. 20, the day after the workshop, François-Philippe Champagne was appointed minister of Global Affairs, and Mary Ng was named minister of International Trade. Both are extensively on the record saying trade should be Canada’s priority for engaging China. What about concerns over China’s espionage and covert political influence activities in Canada, and Canadians’ alarm about engaging with a régime complicit in human rights violations against its own people, violating sovereignty in the South China Sea and using economic leverage to serve Beijing’s authoritarian political and strategic purposes? Such concerns must go by the wayside, because China has made clear it will not expand trade with Canada otherwise.

So now, the same policymakers who got it so very wrong on China in the past are setting Canada’s China agenda for the future. The question begs: What more does the Chinese Communist régime have to do to convince us that our “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” appeasement of China is actually disastrous to Canada’s domestic and global interests?

What we need is uncompromised, Canadian, level-headed good sense to be brought into play. Let’s hope that happens before it is too late.

Source: Burton: Trudeau government at a crossroads in its dealings with China

A red flag for Canada after the Putinization of Xi’s dictatorship: Charles Burton

Analysis of possible or likely impact on Chinese Canadians of interest:

….Any naive hopes for a peaceful evolution to democracy are shattered against the reality that China is now a one-man dictatorship yearning to restore the archaic political norms of China’s imperial past: subjects instead of citizens, the destiny of the country instead of individual or minority and collective entitlement to protection of their rights.

Moreover, another of the constitutional revisions adds “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” as the party’s ideological guide. In other words, whatever Mr. Xi says or does has the authority of supreme law in China.

The problem for Canada is that Mr. Xi has a fervent commitment to a meta-ideology that threatens the current, fraying liberal world order. His “Chinese dream of national restoration” demands that Canada and all Western countries become subsidiary participants in the Chinese-dominated “community of the common destiny of humankind,” linked by the massive “One Belt One Road” global infrastructure program. Under a previous empire, all roads led to Rome. Under Mr. Xi, all high-speed rail lines under heaven, shipping routes (including those via the Canadian Arctic) and air transport will pass through Beijing.

China is already aggressively rallying support from pro-mainland ethnic Chinese in Canada, as well China-friendly business lobbyists and politicians, through its United Front Work Department initiatives in Canada. If the political consensus in Canada is not to comply, expect China to retaliate. Britain, Australia and New Zealand have already refused to support the One Belt One Road plan; they will certainly incur Beijing’s wrath, starting with economic punishment as the stick, and promise of trade and investment benefits for compliance with China’s demands as the carrot.

The constitutional amendments also include new language about “the great revival of the Chinese race.” The threat to Chinese Canadians is that there is a much enhanced blood-and-belonging aspect to Mr. Xi’s constitutionally endorsed rhetoric. This overarching vision sees all ethnic Chinese – regardless of citizenship or number of generations abroad, even including children adopted from China – as obligated to respond to Chinese embassy pressures to facilitate China’s rise, through political support for Beijing and even treasonous espionage. Canadians with family in China are already feeling pressure to demonstrate their loyalty in this way. Canada must be doing much more to protect our citizens of ethnic Chinese origin from foreign interference.

Under Xi Jinping’s now unchallengeable dictatorship, the world is becoming more and more Chinese. We should ensure this does not mean that Canada has to become less and less Canadian.

via A red flag for Canada after the Putinization of Xi’s dictatorship – The Globe and Mail