Ottawa's response to Zhang conviction `meek'
`NOT ENOUGH' SERIOUSNESS, URGENCY IN REACTION TO JAILING OF CHINESE JOURNALIST
The Liberal government fell woefully short in its timid response to the incarceration earlier this week of a Chinese citizen journalist who chronicled the country’s pandemic’s response, diplomatic and human rights experts say.
The criticism comes after the official Twitter account for Global Affairs Canada stated briefly on Tuesday that it was “very concerned” about the incarceration of Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan earlier this week. GAC has not yet issued an official statement on the matter, while the U.S., U.K. and European Union all offered full-throated and official condemnation of the conviction.
A Chinese court on Dec. 28 sentenced Zhang to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a vague charge often used against critics of the government in China. Zhang was among many so-called “citizen journalists” who chronicled the initial outbreak of the virus in Wuhan early this year, and who helped spotlight the Communist Party of China’s draconian lockdowns and alleged attempts to conceal the seriousness of the virus.
U. S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted the “sham prosecution and conviction” of Zhang Tuesday afternoon, saying the trial had “shown once again it will do whatever it takes to silence those who question the Party’s official line, even regarding crucial public health information.”
The EU said Zhang’s right to a fair trial and due process “have not been respected,” and called for her immediate release. The British foreign office sent out a brief statement claiming that Zhang and 12 Hong Kong activists had been “tried in secret” on Monday, “raising further serious questions about access to legal counsel in Mainland China.”
Iran’s transport minister Mohammad Eslami told state television that the final report on the crash had been sent to the countries participating in the investigation.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said an indictment will be issued in less than a month against “those whose negligence caused the accident,” the semi-official news agency Fars reported. Iranian officials have said the case was being handled by a military court.
In a preliminary report in July, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization blamed a misaligned radar system and lack of communication between the air defence operator and his commanders for the downing of the plane.
Under United Nations rules, Iran retains overall control of the investigation while the United States and Ukraine are accredited as the countries where the jet was respectively built and operated. Canada has also played a role as the home of many of the victims on the downed plane.
International rules on air crash investigations known as Annex 13 include a recommendation that a final report appears within 12 months, which in this case runs until early January, though many high-profile probes take longer.
A spokeswoman for the Transportation Safety Board ( TSB) of Canada said by email the agency was informed that a “draft investigation report was going to be distributed” this week, although the TSB will not have access to it. The TSB will only receive a copy of the final report when published.
Habib Haghjoo, an Iranian-born Canadian who lost his daughter and granddaughter in the crash, said he did not trust the news from Tehran and stressed that his priority is the report.
“They want to wrap it up,” he said of Iran. “We want the truth.”