Senator Woo: Election disinformation claims and Kenny Chiu’s Richmond riding

It was striking that the Conservatives lost three ridings with large Chinese Canadian populations: Steveston-Richmond East (which has flipped between the Conservatives and Liberals) and ridings which have been held by Conservatives for some time, Richmond Centre (2008-21) and Markham—Unionville (2015-21).

I tend to put more stock in claims of disinformation than Senator Woo, given his public record of being relatively uncritical of the Chinese regime.

And his critique of the article by Sze-Fung Lee and Benjamin Fung that prompted his rebuttal, for their comment that riding voters have “weak critical thinking skills and . . . (lack of) prior training or experience in dealing with disinformation” seems unwarranted given that we know that most voters, whatever their origins, are equally inexperienced in dealing with disinformation (nor are necessarily politicians).

And as to his concerns regarding Chiu’s proposed bill, they could be addressed in the Commons and Senate committees should the bill have proceeded to review:

Canadians are not generally sore losers, but the 2021 general election has produced a long tail of speculation about why certain ridings voted the way they did – but shouldn’t have. The latest is from two McGill academics in a recent Policy Options article, Misinformation and Chinese interference in Canada’s affairs. Sze-Fung Lee and Benjamin Fung claim that Kenny Chiu, a Conservative candidate in Steveston-Richmond East in B.C., was the target of a disinformation campaign via social media posts about a private member’s bill he proposed that did not get approved before the September federal election.

The Globe and Mail reported on the Lee and Fung article and questioned whether the campaign had cost him the election.

Neither the Globe nor Lee and Fung pointed to a “smoking gun” connecting Beijing to what happened in the Greater Vancouver riding, whose population is about 50 per cent ethnic Chinese. But both share the view that, in the words of Lee and Fung, “whoever was responsible for disseminating the fake news had a clear motive in reshaping the narratives in favour of Beijing’s interests.”

But was it disinformation – in the sense of false information that is intended to mislead – or legitimate debate within the Chinese-Canadian community?

Chiu’s Bill C-282, the Foreign Influence Registry Act, would have set up a registry for people or entities who contacted Canadian politicians or senior federal public officials in cases where they were or could be perceived to be acting on behalf of certain foreign governments or entities.

As Tarun Krishnakumar noted last July in a Policy Options article: “C-282 is also limited in that it only applies to agents acting on behalf of principals located in countries specifically designated by the Canadian government. In other words, it does not apply to foreign influence writ large. While politically expedient, this is problematic from a broader policy perspective as it opens up the framework to claims that it is discriminatory and unfairly targeted at certain countries.”

Lee and Fung don’t demonstrate the falsity of the social media posts they deem to be problematic but have instead taken at face value Chiu’s belief that he was the victim of disinformation.

One WeChat post that Chiu cited as misleading claims that the bill “is going to have extremely negative consequences for immigrants from mainland China. It will also harm economic, cultural and technological exchanges between Canada and China.”

The post goes on: “Although the bill doesn’t list which countries belong to the foreign forces, considering the soured relationship between Canada and China…(and Chiu’s) anti-China background, undoubtedly this bill is targeting mainland Chinese associations and aims to control or monitor mainland Chinese speech and behaviours.”

In Chiu’s proposed bill, a foreign principal was defined as “a foreign government, an individual or entity related to a foreign government, a foreign political organization that exists primarily to pursue political objectives or an individual or entity related to such an organization.”

It defined a related entity – among several criteria – as one in which the leadership is accustomed or under an obligation, whether formal or informal, to act in accordance with the directions, instructions or wishes of the foreign government or foreign political organization.”

Given that the People’s Republic of China (the PRC) is an authoritarian state, one could reasonably argue that all legally constituted entities in China – including corporations, educational institutions, alumni organizations, cultural groups, and municipalities – fall under the definition of foreign principal. If that is the case, any individual in Canada acting on behalf of such an entity would be subject to registration if he or she were to speak with a parliamentarian or senior public official on a public policy matter.

The Globe editors dismiss the idea that anyone attending a Chinese cultural event would be subject to registration under the proposed act. That may be so, but what if a Canadian representative of that Chinese cultural group were to speak with me as a senator about cultural services trade between Canada and China?

If the bill had passed, what would have stopped Canadian officials from declaring the cultural group to be under the control of the Chinese state and requiring that any representative of that group register under the act to consult with a parliamentarian or senior official about a public policy matter?

The “related entity” argument is what lies behind the calls to ban Huawei from involvement in Canada’s 5G telecommunications network. On the face of it, Huawei is a privately held company with no formal ties to the Chinese state. But critics of Huawei say it is tantamount to a foreign principal because the company is headquartered in China and could be required by the Chinese state to hand over data that would compromise Canadian security.

The same logic is behind the recent forced divestiture of China Mobile’s assets in Canada on the grounds that those assets could be leveraged by the Chinese state for non-commercial purposes. China Mobile does not actually own or operate any network infrastructure in Canada but rather uses the Telus network to deliver telecommunications services.

A badly written law such as C-282 would open the door to a similarly broad interpretation of many Chinese entities on the basis that they could theoretically be subject to direction from the Chinese state.

It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that many recent PRC immigrants who have enduring ties with their native country feared Chiu’s bill would have negative consequences for them, and that it would “harm economic, cultural and technological exchanges between Canada and China.” That they felt this way is less about “reshaping the narratives in favour of Beijing’s interests,” as Lee and Fung assert, as it is about self-protection.

None of the above is a defence of the Chinese system of government or Xi Jinping’s drift toward autocracy. But a badly drafted Canadian law on foreign influence does not advance democracy in China. It does, however, set back democracy in Canada by stigmatizing Canadians with institutional ties to the PRC.

It is bad enough to cry election disinformation without proper scrutiny. What is worse is Lee and Fung’s insinuation that some Steveston-Richmond East voters cast their ballots against Chiu because of “weak critical thinking skills and . . . (lack of) prior training or experience in dealing with disinformation.”

We harm the body politic by projecting our insecurities onto fellow citizens, especially Chinese-Canadians, and assuming that they are unwitting receptacles for disinformation from Beijing.  And we undermine the integrity of our elections by casting doubt on the legitimacy of voters’ intentions simply because their views don’t align with ours.

Lee and Fung are correct in saying that “taking a stand against . . . the Chinese Communist Party does not make the Conservatives or Canada anti-China.” They should have added the corollary that voting against a Conservative position on China does not make the elector a disinformation dupe or Chinese Communist Party sympathizer.

Source: Election disinformation claims and Kenny Chiu’s Richmond riding

Chris Alexander: China Against the Rule of Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator [Woo] warns China might not free Spavor and Kovrig in Meng deal if Canada not part of effort

Sigh… Not wise or helpful:

An expert in Canada-Asian relations is warning a future U.S. deal to set free Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou may not lead to the immediate release of two Canadians locked up in China – particularly if Ottawa is not seen as having played a significant role in her release.

Senator Yuen Pau Woo, as facilitator of the Independent Senators Group in the Red Chamber, is the leader of the largest bloc in the Senate. Prior to his appointment to the Senate, he served as president and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada in Vancouver.

Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor were seized and locked up by Beijing in 2018 shortly after Ms. Meng was arrested at Vancouver airport on a U.S. extradition request – apparently in retaliation for the detention of the Huawei Technologies executive.

Ms. Meng is fighting extradition to the United States in court and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rejected calls from Beijing to intervene and send her home, saying there will be no political interference in Canada’s independent judicial system. In late 2020, however, the U.S. Justice Department was reportedly in discussions on a plea agreement that would allow Ms Meng to return to China.

Mr. Woo has previously played a role in back-channel diplomacy between Canada and China and says he wants to do what he can do help bring about the release of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor. “I am plugged into the discussions around these issues.”

He said there is a risk a future U.S. deal to free Ms. Meng could be “misinterpreted on the Chinese side as a problem that was resolved purely by D.C. and Beijing” without Canada.

“The resolution of the Meng Wanzhou issue may not, I am really sad to say, may not facilitate a resolution of the Spavor-Kovrig issue,” Mr. Woo told a Carleton University webinar last week.

“For the simple reason that if the political resolution is a bilateral one between the U.S. and China, that will effectively take Canada out of the equation and reduce our degrees of freedom to encourage the release of our two compatriots.”

Elaborating on this in a later interview, Mr. Woo said it’s very important that Canada be seen by Beijing as actively trying to bring about a resolution that would free Ms. Meng and if a U.S.-brokered deal is ever reached, that “Canada’s fingerprints will be all over” that arrangement.

“Right now the Canadian position for Meng Wanzhou is there is legal process and she has to go through it …. Give it your best shot – in terms of Madam Meng’s lawyers – and whatever happens, happens,” he said.

But, he noted, the United States has reportedly been trying to broker a solution.

“If we say that we are relying on the normal process of legal discussion to solve the Meng issue, why would the Chinese then subvert their legal process … to free the Michaels?”

Mr. Woo also said Canada, which has criticized the arrest of the two Michaels as “arbitrary detention,” must also recognize the Chinese justice system as legitimate.

“I don’t see that there can be any resolution of the dual problem of Meng Wanzhou and the two Michaels without some recognition and acknowledgment, on the part of the two governments, of the legitimacy of the justice systems of the other side,” he told the Carleton webinar.

“I am not saying we have to agree with the Chinese justice system but it would be extremely difficult for the Chinese to suddenly spring free Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig if we essentially say that … your system is totally illegitimate.”

Added Mr. Woo: That’s “going to be very difficult for the Chinese to spring them free because it would be basically recognizing that the Canadian side was right.”

Conservative Senator Leo Housakos said he was appalled by the suggestion that Canada should recognize China’s judicial system as legitimate.

He said it’s impossible to consider China’s justice system legitimate “when it can imprison you without charges, [when it’s] a system that doesn’t disclose what the charges are to you or to your attorney and is a judicial system that is done in closed-door privacy.”

Added Mr. Housakos: “It’s laughable.”

The Conservative senator said it’s important to remember that Ms. Meng is being accused of serious charges of bank fraud and the Canadian courts must deal impartially with the extradition proceedings, regardless of whether the U.S. grants a deferred prosecution agreement.

The American charge for which she was arrested in Canada is fraud – lying to a bank – which is a crime in both this country and the United States.

The U.S. alleges that Ms. Meng deceived banks including HSBC about the true nature of the relationship between Huawei and a subsidiary based in Iran, called Skycom, and that this fraud led bankers to clear hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions in violation of U.S. sanctions.

The Conservative senator noted that Mr. Woo recently refused to grant leave for his motion that would have imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Chinese officials over its brutal treatment of China’s Muslim Uyghur minority.

He noted that Mr. Woo advocated a prisoner exchange with Ms. Meng and the two Michaels as did prominent Liberals from the Jean Chrétien era, such as former justice minister Allan Rock, former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy and Eddie Goldenberg, a senior Chrétien adviser.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-senator-warns-china-might-not-free-spavor-and-kovrig-in-meng-deal-if/