For China, the rule of law is a for­eign idea

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - EDITORIAL -

Who knew the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment was so woke. As part of its spat with Ot­tawa over the ar­rest of Meng Wanzhou in Van­cou­ver last month, it has ac­cused Canada of “Western ego­tism and white supremacy” for crit­i­ciz­ing of the de­ten­tions of two Cana­dian cit­i­zens in China.

The ac­cu­sa­tion of a colo­nial dou­ble stan­dard was made by China’s am­bas­sador to Canada, Lu Shaye, in an op-ed in The Hill Times last week. It was the lat­est salvo fired by a Chi­nese gov­ern­ment that is iso­lated in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity over the ar­rests of the two Cana­di­ans.

The United States, Bri­tain, Ger­many, France, the Euro­pean Union and Aus­tralia have all ei­ther con­demned or ex­pressed con­cern about the im­pris­on­ments of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spa­vor. Both were ar­rested on sus­pi­cion “of en­gag­ing in ac­tiv­i­ties that en­dan­ger China’s na­tional se­cu­rity,” as Mr. Lu put it.

Their de­ten­tions are seen as ob­vi­ous re­tal­i­a­tion for the Dec. 1 ar­rest of Ms. Meng as she changed planes in Van­cou­ver’s air­port. Her ar­rest was the re­sult of a re­quest for ex­tra­di­tion from the United States, where she has been charged with bank fraud.

Ms. Meng is the deputy chair and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of Huawei, the tele­coms gi­ant that is con­sid­ered by many coun­tries, Canada in­cluded, as a po­ten­tial se­cu­rity threat be­cause of its well es­tab­lished links to the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. Some coun­tries, the United States chief among them, have banned the use of Huawei tech­nol­ogy in sen­si­tive pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture; Canada may im­pose lim­i­ta­tions, as well.

Mr. Lu be­lieves it is a dou­ble stan­dard for Canada and its Western al­lies to crit­i­cize China for im­pris­on­ing two Cana­di­ans while at the same time de­fend­ing Ms. Meng’s ar­rest. “It seems that, to some peo­ple, only Cana­dian cit­i­zens shall be treated in a hu­man­i­tar­ian man­ner and their free­dom deemed valu­able, while Chi­nese peo­ple do not de­serve that.”

He also called Ms. Meng’s ar­rest “ground­less” and “il­le­gal.” But he and his gov­ern­ment can make no case for that.

Ms. Meng was ar­rested as the re­sult of an ex­tra­di­tion re­quest from a United States court. The ar­rest war­rant was is­sued by the Supreme Court of British Columbia after it was con­vinced by jus­tice of­fi­cials of the ur­gency of the mat­ter, and that Ms. Meng’s rights, as de­fined by Canada’s Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms, would not be vi­o­lated.

Ms. Meng is now out on bail and liv­ing in one of her Van­cou­ver homes. She and her lawyers will have nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties to chal­lenge the ex­tra­di­tion re­quest in court, and to ap­peal any de­ci­sion. The en­tire process will take place in open court, in front of the pub­lic and the news me­dia.

Con­trary to Mr. Lu’s claims, her ar­rest is the very essence of le­gal­ity un­der in­ter­na­tional laws and treaties. It is also wrong for Mr. Lu to sug­gest that Canada has failed to show “con­cern or sym­pa­thy” for Ms. Meng’s plight. Con­cern and sym­pa­thy are built into a Cana­dian le­gal sys­tem that as­sumes her in­no­cence and will en­sure that her rights are pro­tected.

As for the re­tal­ia­tory ar­rests of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spa­vor, Mr. Lu ar­gues that “China’s com­pe­tent au­thor­i­ties took com­pul­sory mea­sures in ac­cor­dance with the law.” But once again, he can back no such claim. There have been no pub­lic court ap­pear­ances, and the two men have been de­nied lawyers and reg­u­lar con­sular ac­cess. They are said to be de­tained in rooms in which the lights are con­stantly on, a form of tor­ture.

If Canada is ex­press­ing con­cern about its two im­pris­oned cit­i­zens while re­main­ing rel­a­tively san­guine about the fate of Ms. Meng, that is not a dou­ble stan­dard but, rather, a con­cern for one sin­gle stan­dard: the rule of law. This ba­sic hu­man­i­tar­ian prin­ci­ple gov­erns ev­ery as­pect of Ms. Meng’s predica­ment, but is com­pletely ab­sent from those of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spa­vor.

It is this same sin­gle stan­dard that has prompted Canada to speak out reg­u­larly about the mis­treat­ment of Chi­nese peo­ple at the hands of their gov­ern­ment, whether it be the hun­dreds of thou­sands of Uyghur Mus­lims who have been ar­bi­trar­ily ar­rested and sent to “re-ed­u­ca­tion cen­tres,” or the res­i­dents of Hong Kong who feel the ever-tight­en­ing noose of Bei­jing’s thought po­lice.

The only peo­ple who don’t be­lieve that Chi­nese cit­i­zens, or any­one else for that mat­ter, should “be treated in a hu­man­i­tar­ian man­ner and their free­dom deemed valu­able” are those work­ing in the gov­ern­ment Mr. Lu rep­re­sents.

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