Saint-Jacques: Canada needs a new engagement strategy that opposes China’s thuggery

Good practical approaches us, although not easy to implement. The Winter Olympics provide an important pressure point that should be used:

The 11-year prison sentence handed to Michael Spavor is just the latest example of the ruthlessness of China’s efforts to put pressure on the Canadian government, and in turn on the U.S. administration, to return Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. As The Washington Post’s editorial board wrote on Aug. 13: “China’s kangaroo courts operate in service to the country’s Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping, whose contempt for international standards of law and justice is manifest.” As Times Wang outlined in The Globe last week, Canadians should refuse to recognize China’s “justice” system.

While a short-term resolution of the case can only come from Washington, it is not clear that U.S. President Joe Biden is ready to spend the political capital necessary to let Ms. Meng return to China. Of course, an elegant solution for both Ottawa and Washington would be if the judge presiding over the case were to decide after the extradition hearings conclude that Ms. Meng’s rights were not respected when she was arrested and orders her released.

In any case, detailed negotiations will still be required to guarantee the safe return of the two Michaels to Canada and, hopefully, a decision by the Chinese supreme court to cancel the death penalty against Robert Schellenberg, who was convicted of drug smuggling. And let’s not forget that we have three other Canadians sitting on death row in China with no consular access to other Canadians, including Xiao Jianhua and Huseyin Celil, both abducted abroad by China.

Ottawa needs to adopt a more robust strategy to counter China’s attack on international law and norms, as well as its interference and spying activities in Canada. The electoral campaign offers an opportunity to ask political parties how they envisage future relations with China.

Knowing China has used hostage diplomacy with increasing frequency in the past 15 years, and following the adoption of the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-States Relations in February, Canada should agree with its allies on a common strategy, including sanctions, that would be applied against China if it dares to take people hostage again.

To prevent China from weaponizing trade, as it did against us after the arrest of Ms. Meng and is doing now with Australia, and since some commodities come from a limited number of countries, Canada should propose to the United States and Australia to conclude an agreement that no signatory would increase its exports to China of wheat, canola, beef, pork, metallurgical coal, iron ore and others above its historical share of the Chinese market if one of the three is victim of such sanctions.

An offer could be made to other countries to join later. China would quickly understand that it could no longer divide us by increasing its imports from another supplier.

Democratic countries should also agree to continue to protest against China’s flouting of the agreement to guarantee Hong Kong’s autonomy until 2047, and against China’s human rights abuses – including the continuing genocide in Xinjiang – by asking for a full investigation by the UN.

One important and difficult deadline is looming on us: the holding of the Winter Olympics in Beijing next February. Since the number of cases related to the Delta variant is increasing in China, Canada and allies should ask that the Games be postponed to February, 2023. They should also specify that if China does not agree to let a UN investigation team go to Xinjiang immediately, and if it continues to deny the World Health Organization complete, unrestricted access to investigate the origin of COVID-19, Canada and the United States will offer to jointly host the Olympics using existing facilities in Vancouver, Whistler and Seattle. This would also prevent China using the event for propaganda purposes.

To counter China’s influence in the developing world through its Belt and Road Initiative, which finances global infrastructure projects, Western countries need to offer an alternative with more investment and assistance. They must also demonstrate that a democratic system presents more long-term potential than the Chinese authoritarian regime.

It is important to distinguish between Chinese leaders and Chinese citizens: Chinese immigrants have made a great contribution to Canada’s development and the government should declare that Canada remains open to Chinese nationals, including students, and will provide support to all Chinese nationals seeking asylum from state persecution, including those from Hong Kong.

Let’s hope the new government elected on Sept. 20 will quickly produce a new engagement strategy with China that opposes its thuggery and meets the expectations of Canadians.

Guy Saint-Jacques served as Canada’s ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016.


Could Olympics offer leverage against China’s ‘hostage diplomacy’?

More discussion regarding potential boycott of the Beijing winter olympics. Good comments by former ambassador Guy Saint-Jacques:

The looming espionage convictions of two Canadians in what has been called an act of “hostage diplomacy” should push this country to take a tougher stand toward the Chinese regime — and a hard look at the upcoming Beijing Olympics, observers say.

Verdicts in the cases of the so-called two Michaels — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — were expected this week, with Spavor’s verdict anticipated as early as Tuesday evening.

The outcome scarcely seemed in doubt. The conviction rate in China is 99.7 per cent, as touted by China’s own Supreme People’s Court.

A third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, had his death sentence upheld Monday as a Chinese court rejected his appeal. He had been sentenced in January 2019 on charges of drug trafficking.

All three Canadians are widely believed to have been targeted by China in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who is going through extradition proceedings in Vancouver that would send her to the United States to face fraud charges related to her company’s dealings with Iran.

The Chinese executive comes from a powerhouse family in China with influence in both the political and business world, and her arrest in December 2018 at the Vancouver airport was seen by Beijing as a grave insult. Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave, and Spavor, an entrepreneur, were arrested in China days after Meng was detained in a tactic that observers have dubbed “hostage-taking diplomacy.”

Beijing has made it clear that they will not release the men unless Meng walks free.

So, what is Canada — a small player on the international scene — to do as tensions mount and the fate of the three detainees grows bleaker? The country finds itself stuck between two of the world’s most powerful nations in China and the U.S., which has an extradition treaty with Canada and holds most of the cards in the geopolitical situation swirling around the prisoners.

Former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, says this country could reach out to its allies and lobby that the Winter Olympics, set to take place in Beijing in February, be taken off the table and perhaps even relocated to North America.

“What does a country need to do for the world to decide, ‘Well, this country does not deserve to host the Games?’” he said.

“We know there’s a genocide going on in Xinjiang; we know they aren’t respecting the agreement with the UK on the autonomy of Hong Kong; we know how badly they managed the first phase of the pandemic; we know what they are doing in the South China Sea, how aggressive they are towards Taiwan.”

Should the Games continue to be held in Beijing anyway, there should be an agreement that no foreign leaders attend the opening ceremony, he said.

“You make this public and tell China, ‘This is what’s going to take place unless you agree to a full investigation … in Xinjiang,’” he said, referring to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region where reports of genocide carried out by China have caused international condemnation.

“China will use it for political purposes, for its prestige,” said Saint-Jacques.

Clive Ansley, retired from 36 years of legal practice in both Canada and China, who now works as a consultant on legal issues related to China, said there are well-documented human rights abuses in China and called the idea of the Games being held there “absolutely obscene.”

Ansley cautioned, though, that using Olympics as leverage poses risks.

“It’s almost like a kind of blackmail,” he said, adding that negotiating on that front could make the situation look like it’s politically driven, rather than driven by the principle of law and Canada’s treaty obligations to the United States.

Ansley said he supports continuing the extradition process for Meng — as bad as the situation facing the detainees is.

“We can’t just walk away from that,” he said. “Because the result of that would be an absolute guarantee that every time we have a dispute with China, their first recourse will be hostage diplomacy. Their first instinct will be to grab the nearest Canadian.”

Both Sainte-Jacques and Ansley said that the world has to consider tough trade sanctions on China.

“China, under the Chinese Communist Party, is an international outlaw,” said Ansley. “When China commits an illegal act under international law, then we need to stop pussyfooting around and trying to appease China.”

Saint-Jacques said the federal government has to “develop more concrete” strategies for dealing with China. He said there has been some movement from Canada, which led the way for the recent signing of the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations by dozens of countries.

When the closed-door trials for the two Michaels took place in March, representatives from other countries showed up to support them and to denounce the secrecy of the Chinese court, labelling it a violation of the country’s international bilateral treaty obligations.

“We are at the stage where we have send some concrete challenges to China and we cannot do this working alone,” Saint-Jacques said.


Italy’s citizenship law back in focus as multicultural stars triumph at Tokyo Olympics

Of note. Will see extent to which if influences the policy debates:

Italy’s enthusiasm over its Olympics success, driven in part by multicultural athletes, has once again reignited debate over its citizenship law and the bureaucratic hurdles faced by thousands of young people.

The debate comes on the heels of Italy’s best performance in history at the Olympic Games, with 40 gold medals from a diverse band of athletes from a variety of backgrounds, including the country’s new star, Texas-born sprinter Lamont Marcell Jacobs.

The debate was sparked anew after the head of Italy’s National Olympic Committee, Giovanni Malago, complained of the bureaucratic headaches confronting Italian-born athletes who want to compete for their country but lack citizenship.

Under its current path to citizenship, Italy is an outlier in Europe, providing rights based on blood ties rather than based on where children are born – an idea known as “ius soli”, or “right of the soil”.

Children born in Italy to foreign parents must await their 18th birthdays before applying for citizenship, beginning an arduous process that can take four years, one that Malago described as “a Dante-esque circle”.

After Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said Malago’s criticism was valid, far-right leader Matteo Salvini, head of the populist Lega party, retorted that the minister would be better served controlling the countries’ borders than rekindling “ius soli”.

In Italy, the far-right has linked the debate over citizenship with the ongoing migrant crisis, which this year has seen 31,777 migrants land on the country’s coasts, more than double that in the same period in 2020, according to interior ministry figures.

“I think the important thing is that for these kids we have to think of social inclusion,” Lamorgese told La Stampa daily on Tuesday, noting that the issue went beyond Italy’s young athletes.

“They have to feel an integral part of society,” she said.

‘Full-fledged Italian’

There are various paths to citizenship in Italy — Jacobs’ citizenship was accorded through his Italian mother despite being born in the United States to an American father — but that involving children of two foreign-born parents is the most complicated.

Case in point is 17-year-old pole vaulter Great Nnachi, who was born in Turin to Nigerian parents, and is already a champion. Having broken records throughout her teens, she most recently won a junior title with her personal best of 4,01 metres in February.

But her records are not recognised by the state, as she is not technically Italian, and she cannot compete for Italy in international competitions.

“Despite being a full-fledged Italian, I can’t represent my country in sports,” Nnachi told La Stampa Tuesday. “I’m an Italian champion but I can’t demonstrate it outside the border.”

Italy’s national statistics agency Istat calculates there are about 800,000 minors in Italy who would receive Italian nationality were “ius soli” adopted, while some 60,000 newborns a year would become automatically Italian.

According to Italy’s Olympic Committee, 46 of its athletes who competed in the Tokyo Olympics this year were foreign-born.

Source: Italy’s citizenship law back in focus as multicultural stars triumph at Tokyo Olympics

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.


China slams Olympic boycott call, ‘politicization of sports’

The Special Committee on Canada-China Relations should stop making virtue signalling calls for the Olympics to be moved (won’t happen) and join the British parliamentary committee in calling for a boycott:

China on Thursday criticized what it called the “politicization of sports” after British lawmakers urged a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics unless China allows an investigation of complaints of human rights abuses in its northwest.

A boycott “will not succeed,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.

The British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee called for the government to urge British companies to boycott the Beijing Games, scheduled for February. The appeal adds to pressure on China’s ruling Communist Party over reports of mass detentions and other abuses of mostly Muslim ethnic minorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

“China firmly opposes the politicization of sports and the interference in other countries’ internal affairs by using human rights issues as a pretext,” Wang said. “Attempts to disrupt, obstruct and sabotage the preparation and convening of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games out of political motivation have been met with strong opposition from all sectors of the international community.”

China, which rejects the accusations of abuses in Xinjiang, has denied the United Nations unfettered access to the region to investigate the claims.


Kheiriddin: Boycotting Beijing 2022 may not change China, but it will spoil its glory

Of note and agree:

As the countdown continues to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, human rights groups called this week for a full-blown boycott, given accusations of China committing genocide against its minority Uyghur Muslim population and its recent suppression of basic freedoms in Hong Kong.

According to a coalition that includes Uyghurs, Tibetans and Hong Kong residents, “The time for talking with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) is over.” The statement comes the same week that the U.S. Congress is holding hearings on the issue, and days after the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said boycotts are ineffective and only hurt athletes.

Source: Boycotting Beijing 2022 may not change China, but it will spoil its glory

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

US weighs joint approach to Beijing Olympics with allies

Of note and needed. Hopefully, enough countries will have the sense to boycott and not provide a propaganda triumph for the Chinese regime:

The State Department said Tuesday the Biden administration is consulting with allies about a joint approach to China and its human rights record, including how to handle the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.

The department initially suggested that an Olympic boycott to protest China’s rights abuses was among the possibilities but a senior official said later that a boycott has not yet been discussed.

The official said the U.S. position on the 2022 Games had not changed but that the administration is in frequent contact with allies and partners about their common concerns about China. Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier the consultations were being held in order to present a united front.

“Part of our review of those Olympics and our thinking will involve close consultations with partners and allies around the world,” Price told reporters.

Human rights groups are protesting China’s hosting of the Games, which are set to start in February 2022. They have urged a diplomatic or straight-up boycott of the event to call attention to alleged Chinese abuses against Uyghurs, Tibetans, and residents of Hong Kong.

Price declined to say when a decision pm the Olympics might be made, but noted there is still almost a year until the Games are set to begin.

“These Games remain some time away. I wouldn’t want to put a timeframe on it, but these discussions are underway,” he said. “It is something that we certainly wish to discuss and it is certainly something that we understand that a approach will be not only in our interest, but also in the interest of our allies and partners. So this is one of the issues that is on the agenda, both now and going forward.”

The Beijing Winter Olympics open on Feb. 4, 2022 and China has denied all charges of human rights abuses. It says “political motives” underlie the boycott effort.

Rights groups have met with the International Olympic Committee and have been told the Olympic body must stay politically “neutral.” They have been told by the IOC that China has given “assurances” about human rights conditions.

Both the IOC and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee have said in the past they oppose boycotts.

In March, IOC president Thomas Bach said history shows that boycotts never achieve anything. “It also has no logic,” he said. “Why would you punish the athletes from your own country if you have a dispute with a government from another country? This just makes no real sense.”

The USOPC has questioned the effectiveness of boycotts. “We oppose Games boycotts because they have been shown to negatively impact athletes while not effectively addressing global issues,” it said. “We believe the more effective course of action is for the governments of the world and China to engage directly on human rights and geopolitical issues.”

Source: US weighs joint approach to Beijing Olympics with allies

Neve: We need a human rights game plan for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

Good suggestions. Latest Angus-Reid poll shows 55 percent support boycott compares to 27 percent opposed:
As the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing draw nearer – less than eleven months to go – calls for a boycott grow.

Every day, grave human rights violations suffocate freedom in Hong Kong; brutalize Tibetan, Falun Gong, pro-democracy and other prisoners because of who they are or what they believe; and jeopardize the survival of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. Worry for unjustly imprisoned Canadians, including Huseyin Celil, Sun Qian, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – and four Canadians currently sentenced to death in China – is top of mind. Understandably, there is much debate about holding the Olympics in a country responsible for a human rights crisis of this magnitude.

Immediately there is pushback. We hear indignation that a boycott politicizes the Olympics. But concern for universal human rights is anything but political. These are international obligations binding on all nations, including China.

The Olympic Charter itself affirms that: “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Surely championing universal human rights is true to the essence of that vision.

What is particularly galling is for governments and the Olympic movement to dismiss boycott calls as inappropriate, then go no further. That is an utter abdication of responsibility. Boycott or not, there must be a forceful human-rights game plan for these Olympics.

With the House of Common’s recognition of China’s genocide against the Uyghurs; with an iron grip of repression closing around Hong Kong; with Canadians unjustly locked up in Chinese prisons; and with the Chinese government determined to bask in a favourable international spotlight – if this is not the time to sharpen the world’s focus, build pressure, and set out clear expectations for human rights change in China, when will that time be?

Here is the beginning of a three-part game plan for Canada.

First, work with other governments to hold China accountable within the United Nations human rights system. The UN Human Rights Council is in session and will meet two more times before the flame is lit in Beijing. Governments need to find their resolve and use the world’s premier human rights body to call out one of the world’s most egregious human rights violators.

Second, take steps that are readily available. Canadian law and policy already provide for a range of meaningful measures such as more robust bans on products made through forced labour; targeted sanctions on Chinese government officials; concrete initiatives to protect activists in Canada facing threats for their Chinese human rights advocacy; and dedicated programs for refugees fleeing this repression. House of Commons committees on the Canada-China relationship, international human rights and immigration have explored and proposed those and other recommendations in recent months. It is time for action.

And third, all stakeholders need human rights-focused Olympics strategies. That includes the government, the Canadian Olympic Committee, media, corporate sponsors and individual athletes.

There needs to be a coherent response with other governments, including maintaining pressure with respect to key human rights concerns throughout the lead-up to and during the Olympics. Coordinated decisions as to which officials will attend and who will pointedly stay away from the lavish opening ceremony should be publicized.

Attention will be needed to ensure that journalists have freedom and are encouraged to report about China’s human rights reality. Similarly, marketing campaigns cannot gloss over China’s grim human rights record. Television networks with Olympic broadcast rights, and companies paying big bucks to use the logo, need to figure out how they will lift up human rights.

And there must be assurances of safety and support for individual athletes who will feel compelled by conscience to show solidarity.

If governments and the Olympic movement are going to rebuff boycott suggestions, it is incumbent upon them to demonstrate they are nonetheless committed to addressing the harrowing human rights backdrop behind the Beijing Games’ fanfare.

This is not playing politics. It is about respecting what the Olympics aspire to be.

Above all, it is about honouring the Uyghur people, the people of Hong Kong, Tibetans, Mongolians, Falun Gong practitioners, democracy campaigners, human rights defenders, journalists, labour activists, imprisoned Canadians, and countless others.

For them, the Olympic flame offers no inspiration or comfort.  For them, we must set the flame ablaze with concern, solidarity and action for human rights.

Alex Neve is a Senior Fellow with the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Source: Neve: We need a human rights game plan for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

Latest Angus-Reid poll showing 55 percent favouring a boycott, 27 percent opposed.


Mendes: We say ‘never again,’ then it happens again in China and we do almost nothing

Good op-ed by Errol Mendes:

We are witnessing what we’d hoped would “never again” happen after the Second World War: There is compelling evidence that over a million Uyghurs are being detained in Xinjiang, China.

While the Chinese government claims the detention camps are in fact vocational or training camps, the detainees are subjected to propaganda sessions, forced labour, and physical abuse, including gang rapes, according to credible news reports.

There’s also evidence that the Chinese government is trying to reduce the numbers of this ethnic and religious group through enforced birth control.

I agree with former Justice minister Irwin Cotler that we should join the U.S. and other countries in imposing targeted sanctions against key planners of the mass detention of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

I have suggested in Canadian Parliament that sanctions should target the architects of the suppression and detention of the Uyghurs. Such sanctions could target governor Shohrat Zakir of Xinjiang, and the region’s party chief, Chen Quanguo, who’s a member of the politburo of the party in the highest ranks of the Chinese government. Both have asserted that these allegations, of what amount to serious international crimes against the Uyghurs, are fabricated lies and absurd. Zakir goes further by describing the camps as boarding schools where the rights of the “students” are protected.

In 2017, Parliament passed the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, which implements the Magnitsky targeted sanctions that allow Canada to freeze the assets and ban the travel of human-rights abusers and corrupt officials around the world. Similar laws have been adopted by the U.S., the U.K., and many European countries, and the European Union is considering adopting a law for the whole region. The law was championed by Bill Browder, the global human-rights and anti-corruption campaigner whose lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was murdered by Russian officials.

In an interview in the Globe and Mail, Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the UN, said the federal government must consider the consequences, including possible retaliation, before imposing sanctions on senior Chinese officials for violating the human rights of minority groups. I agree with him that a government can never afford to engage in non-consequential thinking or actions that could threaten our two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, or engage in further trade actions that could threaten our agricultural and lumber exports.

However, Canadian society can’t bend its foundational commitments to the rule of law to the laws practised by China and other dictatorships. We can’t ignore our oft-stated commitments to the promotion and protection of universal human rights embodied in the promise of “never again.” We can’t just stand by while, yet again, crimes against humanity are committed, including genocide, torture, and brutal violence and rape against women detainees.

When we stay silent or don’t act in the face of these atrocities, we forfeit our right to be regarded as champions of the equal dignity and rights of all peoples on the world stage. History has shown that silence is the complicit partner to genocide. Canada can’t stand by while genocidal acts and crimes against humanity take place in Myanmar, China, or elsewhere. By forcing birth control on the Uyghurs, the Chinese government is committing both crimes against humanity and genocide.

The officials who I suggest we target for their involvement in the detention, subjugation, and forced birth control in Xinjiang may not want to travel to Canada or have any assets here to be frozen, but the signal we send with the targeted sanctions to, not just China, but the entire world, is that we’re acting on behalf of humanity. They’re meant to bestow pariah status on those at the highest levels of the Chinese government.

Our traditional allies should be urged to follow suit, and even consider doing it jointly with us. As for China’s possible retaliation, “the two Michaels” are already paying the price with their detention and imminent trial. Their fate is sealed as long as Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou isn’t freed.

Canada must develop a longer-term strategy and policy for China that addresses both the country’s “hostage diplomacy” and the use of trade punishments that are substantially in violation of global trade rules under the World Trade Organization.

As China breaches international norms and laws, Canada and its government must develop a long-term strategy with our traditional democratic allies, especially the European Union and the new Biden administration in the U.S. The goal of such a coalition would be the economic, social, and multilateral deterrence of, not only the use of hostage diplomacy by China and other countries, but also China’s ability to target democratic countries that are bound by their values, principles, and constitutions to adhere to the rule of law and the promotion and protection of universal human rights.

U.S. President Joe Biden has already promised to hold a global democracy summit to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the free world. Yet again, the risk is high that authoritarian China will collude with similar powers to make the entire democratic world cower in fear of them.

Canada could urge such a summit, where measures can be agreed on to subject Chinese global companies to national-security, human-rights, and anti-corruption scrutiny, and to penalize them for complicity in their state’s serious international crimes.

We need government, private-sector, and civil-society partnerships to oppose hostage diplomacy and impunity for the most serious international crimes. Such coalitions could build on the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance, comprised of Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand, which functions well already. The commitment to the rule of law — and respect for the equal dignity and rights of all peoples, which underlies the alliance of truly democratic nations — is under attack from authoritarian leaders around the world. Canada can’t acquiesce or stand by in this assault on democracy around the world.

Source: We say ‘never again,’ then it happens again in China and we do almost nothing