China’s abuses aren’t fake news
It’s always good to know the kind of people you’re doing business with — especially if you’re mulling over a big deal.
With that in mind, we can thank China’s ambassador to Canada for frankly stating this week just how little his country values democracy, human rights and a free press.
The Trudeau government is exploring whether the two countries should begin negotiating a free-trade agreement.
And while China is increasingly an important trading partner for, and investor in, Canada, our government must determine whether the economic ties should become even tighter — and whether that could bind us in unforeseen and unwelcome ways.
In Ottawa on Tuesday, Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye revealed much about his political masters in Beijing when he chided the federal government for bowing down to the Canadian media’s preoccupation with human rights.
Economic engagement and human rights are not connected, Lu insisted before firing a verbal broadside at Canadian journalists for painting a negative portrait of China as a human rights abuser and lacking in democracy.
Canadian politicians have often raised issues of human rights on visits to China so it is only fair the Chinese ambassador speaks candidly here.
But the problem Lu and China’s totalitarian Communist government face is not an uncontrollable Canadian media, it is China’s disgraceful record on human rights and freedoms.
The latest report from Amnesty International, a respected non-governmental organization that focuses on human rights, offers a scathing assessment of life in China.
The report reads like a litany of repression, citing a “nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists” who “continued to be systematically subjected to monitoring, harassment, intimidation, arrest and detention.”
Chinese police “detained increasing numbers of human rights defenders outside of formal detention facilities, sometimes without access to a lawyer … exposing the detainees to the risk of torture and other ill-treatment,” the report continued.
“Controls on the internet, mass media and academia were significantly strengthened” while government persecution of religious minorities increased and was “particularly severe” in “Tibetan-populated areas.”
Ambassador Lu might say Amnesty International is wrong, but there are enough independent reports coming out of China to suggest its picture is true.
And contrary to what Lu insists, this should matter to Canada in any free trade talks.
If Chinese companies, which often have strong state connections, want to invest more in Canada, their activities should be transparent and pose no threat to Canadian security.
How Chinese workers are treated should matter to Canadians, too.
Our desire for greater access to the world’s second biggest economy should not close our eyes to dangerous, substandard working conditions.
Moreover, if Canada does more business in China, it’s crucial for Canadian business people who travel there to be aware of how the Chinese state could limit their movements, censor their speech or punish an action that would be entirely legal in Canada.
Indeed, publishing this editorial in China might lead, we suspect, to an unwelcome knock on the author’s door from state officials. Lu might think this matters not. Canadians should know it does.