Now is the time for Canada to push back with strong words and decisive action against increasing belligerence from Xi Jinping’s China.
Indeed, earlier this month at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, in response to a Chinese official’s claim that Canada was bullying China in its treatment of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, newly appointed Ambassador to the UN Bob Rae responded sharply. Rae told the official Canada “shall never forget” the inhumane and arbitrary treatment of the “two Michaels,” Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
“If you think that insulting us, or insulting my country or insulting anyone is going to help in resolving this situation, you are sadly mistaken,” Rae said.
This was a dramatic change in tone on Canada-China relations and it was exactly what the doctor ordered. Ambassador Rae’s intervention has been followed in recent days by a more defiant tone from Prime Minister Trudeau.
During a news conference last week to recognize the 50th anniversary of Canada-China diplomatic ties, Trudeau said “we will remain absolutely committed to working with our allies to ensure that China’s approach of coercive diplomacy, its arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens, alongside other citizens of other countries around the world, is not viewed as a successful tactic by them.”
The prime minister’s comments were met with a formal rebuke from Beijing, which echoed its complaints on the floor of the UN and the long-standing narrative coming from the Communist Party of China that Canada, or any other country, calling out the Chinese government’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Tibet or against the Uighurs is strictly off limits and an interference in China’s domestic affairs.
Let’s be clear: the idea that a nation’s borders create a shield of impunity against being held accountable for its human rights abuses is categorically false and contrary to the important lessons we draw from the Holocaust and other tragic moments in our history. Human rights are universal and it is the obligation of Canada, and all countries, to defend these rights and seek accountability for abuses, wherever and whenever they occur.