Chris Alexander: China Against the Rule of Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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China’s ‘mouthpiece’: Senator faces online backlash, calls to resign after 2 Michaels, Meng tweet

Hopefully, after the release of the Michaels, senators can stop defeating such motions and take a more principled stand against these human rights abuses and genocidal policies:

Last June, 33 Canadian senators voted to defeat a motion decrying China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims as a genocide.

While they all faced criticism from some quarters, only one – Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, leader of the Independent Senators Group – seems to have been singled out as an alleged stooge of China’s communist regime, told to resign and “go home.”

Last week, Woo got a similar reaction when he tweeted about the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, the two Canadians arbitrarily detained by China for nearly three years in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the United States.

Woo tweeted that it was a “happy day” for the families of the Canadian men who became known around the world as the “two Michaels” and for Meng, who was simultaneously released and allowed to return to China. He urged Canadians to ponder the lessons learned from the affair.

He attached a link to an op-ed published in the Toronto Star that cited a former U.S. ambassador, Chas Freeman, saying that the “U.S., assisted by Canada, took Meng hostage in the first place as part of its trade-and-technology war with China.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1441859293012107267&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fglobalnews.ca%2Fnews%2F8239522%2Fsenator-yuen-pau-woo-twitter-backlash%2F&sessionId=9cf2c0f941ed20ab9b0ab51ba030b1947357d4fe&siteScreenName=globalnews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=fcb1942%3A1632982954711&width=500px

That earned Woo a scathing rebuke from Chris Alexander, a former diplomat and one-time immigration minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

“By claiming Meng was ‘taken hostage’ by Canada, @yuenpauwoo has violated his oath as a Canadian senator and should resign,” Alexander tweeted.

“Mouthpieces for foreign propaganda … should have no place in Canada’s Parliament,” he added.

Alexander’s tweet was shared by others who variously referred to Woo as “pond scum” and a “Chinese commie f—” who should be “sent back to China along with Meng.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-1&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1442119591782666240&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fglobalnews.ca%2Fnews%2F8239522%2Fsenator-yuen-pau-woo-twitter-backlash%2F&sessionId=9cf2c0f941ed20ab9b0ab51ba030b1947357d4fe&siteScreenName=globalnews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=fcb1942%3A1632982954711&width=500px

China has maintained from the outset that Meng’s arrest was politically motivated. Canada and the U.S. have strenuously denied it but plenty of American and Canadian experts nevertheless share Freeman’s view that she was a political bargaining chip.

That view was fuelled by former U.S. president Donald Trump, who was attempting to negotiate a trade deal with China at the time of Meng’s arrest and who said he’d intervene in her extradition case “if I think it’s good for what will be the largest trade deal ever made.”

John Manley, a former Liberal deputy prime minister and Canadian foreign affairs minister, said at the time that Trump’s comments had “given Ms. Meng’s lawyers quite a good reason to go to the court and say, ‘This is not an extradition matter. This is actually leverage in a trade dispute and it’s got nothing to do with Canada.”’

Woo notes that Manley and others who have echoed similar views have not been denounced as mouthpieces for China.

That’s a specific kind of opprobrium, he believes, meant to stigmatize people of Chinese descent and he’s worried about where the rising tide of anti-Asian sentiment in Canada could lead.

“I am Exhibit A, if you will, only because I have a bit of public profile,” Woo said in an interview.

“But there are many others in the community who do not have my protections and are genuinely fearful of the increasing typecasting and stigmatization that’s going on.”

Woo was actually born in Malaysia and raised in Singapore before coming to Canada at age 16.

He has been accused of being unabashedly “Beijing friendly,” a mouthpiece and lobbyist for the Communist Party of China, even though he points out he’s “three generations removed from the mainland (China).”

He fears recent immigrants from China, who still have connections to family there, are considered even more suspect and are less able to defend themselves.

Woo points to reports suggesting that Chinese Canadians might have been influenced by or acting on the behest of China when they voted in last month’s federal election, resulting in the defeat of several Conservative incumbents who had advocated a hardline stance against Beijing.

“This is really a slanderous and dangerous way of thinking because it makes assumptions about Chinese Canadians ? who have views that may not be mainstream (and) it presumes that they are not able to think for themselves,” he said.

“The accusation that they are foreign agents or stooges of the Chinese government is a very, very serious allegation and, of course, hearkens back to the days of McCarthyism when careers were ruined and lives were lost and we have to be very careful not to go back to that place.”

One of those defeated Conservative MPs, Kenny Chiu, who lost his B.C. riding to a Liberal in the Sept. 20 election, told The Canadian Press that during the campaign there were WeChat posts he says contained false information about the Conservatives and allegations a private member’s bill he tabled would discriminate against Chinese Canadians. But he also said his party could have done a better job speaking directly to members of that community.

When Woo spoke against the motion labelling China’s treatment of Uyghurs a genocide last June, he argued that Canada, given its history of forcing Indigenous children to attend residential schools, should not try to lecture China from a position of moral superiority on human rights.

Rather, he said, Canada should appeal to its Chinese “friends” not to make the same morally wrong and societally damaging mistake of trying to repress and forcibly assimilate a minority group.

Sen. Peter Harder, the former government representative in the Senate who now sits with the Progressive Senate Group, made a similar argument.

Sen. Peter Boehm, a former senior Global Affairs bureaucrat and Sherpa for prime ministers at G7 summits, argued that the motion’s “few paragraphs of what passes for megaphone diplomacy” would accomplish nothing, other than to anger China and possibly hurt attempts to win the release of Kovrig and Spavor.

Boehm, a member of the Independent Senators Group, said in an interview that both he and Harder got “a few brickbats” for their speeches, including from his former colleague, Alexander.

Alexander could not be reached for comment in time for publication.

“What I was getting was ‘You’re an experienced diplomat, you should know better, shame on you.’ That was basically what I was getting from Chris Alexander and from others who consider themselves experts,” Boehm said.

But unlike Woo, he said: “No one has tweeted or commented that I should go back to China.”

Boehm agrees with Woo that “there’s a correlation here with anti-Asian racism on the rise in Canada and some of this is permeating into the utterances or what various Canadians who should know better are putting on their social media feeds.

“I think it’s unfair and demeaning.”

Source: https://globalnews.ca/news/8239522/senator-yuen-pau-woo-twitter-backlash/?utm_campaign=David%20Akin%27s%20🇨🇦%20Roundup&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter