Hong Kong is­sue po­lit­i­cal hot potato

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - KIRK LAPOINTE

As­tate­ment: in sup­port of the daily demo­cratic de­mands in the streets of Hong Kong, rather mil­que­toast in lan­guage by western stan­dards, to speak for the 300,000 there who hold Cana­dian pass­ports.

A call: to de-es­ca­late and make peace, but listen to what its peo­ple are say­ing.

A clear re­sponse: an un­am­bigu­ous and per­sonal warn­ing, an ac­cu­sa­tion of ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity, of gross in­ter­fer­ence in its af­fairs, of the ab­so­lutely wrong line crossed.

An im­pli­ca­tion: more ret­ri­bu­tion will come if Canada does not stop “be­fore it’s too late.”

Justin Trudeau may have his eye on the elec­toral prize Oct. 21, but he can­not af­ford to take his eye off the fes­ter­ing dis­pute with a coun­try he en­tered of­fice four years ago hop­ing to charm. (No, not Amer­ica, but it’s hardly worth ig­nor­ing, ei­ther.)

The De­cem­ber ar­rest of Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co. Ltd. CFO Meng Wanzhou, de­tained since on be­half of Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties seek­ing ex­tra­di­tion, was it­self an of­fence to China.

But the state­ment of sup­port for the Hong Kong demon­stra­tors by For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land took China’s cake.

Canada now finds it­self not just col­lat­er­ally af­fected by the ar­rest at the be­hest of Amer­ica but in China’s crosshairs as it scur­ries to rep­re­sent hun­dreds of thou­sands of res­i­dents there – ac­tu­ally, the en­tire spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion – who may soon face more than stern of­fi­cial state­ments and lo­cal po­lice quelling of their demon­stra­tions.

It is dif­fi­cult to fathom what other op­tions Canada had in De­cem­ber and last week, but it is also dif­fi­cult to fathom how Canada avoids fur­ther con­se­quences in the short and medium term.

Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters were last week’s rev­e­la­tions from Meng’s de­fence team, in­clud­ing a video and de­tails of her in­ter­ro­ga­tion by the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency (CBSA) at Van­cou­ver air­port.

On the one hand, an af­fi­davit by one of the CBSA’s agents al­leges Meng con­firmed Huawei has an of­fice in Iran, a mat­ter that the United States could con­nect to a vi­o­la­tion of its Ira­nian sanc­tions.

On the other hand, her lawyers as­sert her de­ten­tion with­out their pres­ence for four hours was a pre­tence for an in­ter­ro­ga­tion on

be­half of the U.S. Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion – that the ex­tent of their ques­tion­ing with­out her ar­rest was un­law­ful.

Th­ese mat­ters, part of a trove of doc­u­ments re­leased to me­dia with the court’s ap­proval, point to one whale of a hear­ing.

The next court date is Sept. 23, and what the prime min­is­ter must pray is that the pro­tracted process will be punted post-elec­tion.

Mean­time, the runny-egg Trudeau of old now faces the task of be­com­ing hard-boiled.

Hong Kong ten­sion more likely ful­mi­nates than dis­si­pates.

Into elec­tion mode, he has no choice but to pivot in prin­ci­pled sup­port of its demo­cratic move­ment over the prac­ti­cal sup­port of a greater eco­nomic en­tree into the su­per­power’s mar­ket.

Nat­u­rally, this is not an is­sue both­er­ing peo­ple in Nova Sco­tia.

Not un­set­tling folks in Ford Na­tion, far as I can tell.

No, the hot mess is in our British Columbian laps, a more dy­namic elec­tion is­sue than the pipe­line be­cause it re­quires our prime min­is­ter to be more of a force­ful states­man than a for­tu­itous selfie.

There is no ju­bi­lance in hav­ing the back of democracy.

It is a leader’s solemn task, like the other coun­try or not, and in this case there is some in­con­ve­nience in tan­gling with the Xi Jin­ping regime be­cause Canada’s pros­per­ity could more quickly ac­crue with his bless­ing.

Thus the test of Justin Trudeau. He can­not have it both ways in this zero-sum game.

Ev­ery sound bite about Hong Kong come across as a dog bite into Bei­jing.

Ev­ery men­tion of the two Cana­di­ans im­pris­oned for no seem­ing rea­son by China, ev­ery pledge for the peo­ple of Hong Kong, is a dare to tighten the grip on Cana­dian in­vest­ment, ex­ports and com­merce.

Let’s just see.

The econ­omy could be set aside in this elec­tion for the larger mat­ters of who might best nav­i­gate Canada’s place in the world.

As for the en­vi­ron­ment: sure thing, there is steady and daunt­ing cli­mate change – and it’s also hap­pen­ing to­day, just across the Pa­cific Ocean.

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