(The Canadian Press)

Canada, allies condemn China on Hong Kong law after contentious Meng ruling

Dispute did not dissuade Canada from criticizing China for imposing a national security law on Hong Kong

Canada joined with its major allies Thursday in condemning China for imposing a new national security law on Hong Kong, one day after a contentious B.C. court ruling in the Meng Wanzhou affair.

The statement of “deep concern” with the United States, Australia and Britain comes as experts are warning that two Canadians imprisoned in China could face retaliation because Wednesday’s court ruling in the Meng case didn’t go the way the People’s Republic would have liked.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa angrily denounced the decision by B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes in the extradition case of the Huawei executive, who is wanted on fraud charges in the U.S., as it once more called for her immediate release.

The Meng dispute — which has plunged Sino-Canadian relations to an all-time low — did not dissuade Canada from signing on to a new statement that criticizes China for imposing a national security law on Hong Kong. The Chinese territory is supposed to have autonomy under a “one country-two systems” agreement.

“Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom. The international community has a significant and longstanding stake in Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Direct imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities, rather than through Hong Kong’s own institutions as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode the autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous,” said the joint statement.

“China’s proposals for a new national security law for Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration.”

Britain handed over its administration of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997 under the agreement.

The sharp criticism comes as the Trudeau government has been dealing with its own China crisis since December 2018.

Michael Kovrig, an ex-diplomat working for the International Crisis Group, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who did business in North Korea, have been in Chinese prisons with no access to lawyers or their families since they were arrested nine days after Meng’s arrest by the RCMP on Dec. 1, 2018.

They are accused of violating China’s national security interests, and they have been denied even the regular monthly visits by Canadian diplomats since January because of COVID-19 restrictions on Chinese prisons.

Some analysts say their treatment could get a lot worse, especially based on recent Chinese government statements leading up to the ruling.

“The PRC authorities’ statement of consequences of ‘continuous harm’ to Canada if Ms. Meng is not returned to China forthwith suggests that there will be further retaliation,” said Charles Burton, a China expert with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, who has served as a diplomat in Beijing.

“I am concerned that Kovrig and Spavor may be forced to make false confessions on Chinese TV followed by a sham secret trial and possible sentences of death, usually suspended for two years before commutation to life imprisonment.”

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China between 2009 and 2012, said China is furious over the unresolved Meng case.

“Unfortunately, two innocent Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, will bear the brunt of that anger. It is likely that the detentions will be extended until China has some clarity as to Ms. Meng’s eventual fate. Unfortunately, that could take some time,” said Mulroney.

“China will also seek to lash out at Canada.”

Fen Hampson, a global security expert with the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, said Canada should rethink whether it needs to intervene politically to end the case rather than let it play out in the courts for years.

“You’ve got two Canadians who are in jail under fairly perilous circumstance, given COVID-19, and broader considerations at play in terms of Canada’s trade and investment relations with China,” said Hampson.

“Whatever happens, it will end up on the desk of the justice minister — he’s the one who has to decide whether she gets extradited or not. In some ways, you’re delaying the inevitable. The government is still going to have to make that decision.”

The roots of Canada’s current problems with China predate the Meng-Kovrig-Spavor affairs, said Wendy Dobson, an author and China expert who is co-director of the Institute for International Business at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

The government’s current preoccupation with “diversifying” its trade relations with other Asian countries reflects a long-standing inability to do just that, she said.

“We’ve been saying this to ourselves for years, but we haven’t gotten very far,” Dobson said.

“We have not done a very good job of educating Canadians and deepening their understanding of who this partner is, where this partner comes from, and how to contribute in a way that is useful to both of us in the long term.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Aces aplenty at Vernon Golf Club

Local track has 14 recorded holes-in-one since April 30

Sad ending in case of missing Vernon senior

Body of Wayne Orser found floating in Okanagan Lake Tuesday, July 7

Vernon murder case back in court

Voir dire held for one of two accused in death of William Bartz in July 2017

North Okanagan district shifts attention to wildfire season

FireSmart, Grab-and-Go Bags and emergency planning among tips for wildfire preparedness

Vernon police deem car fire ‘suspicious’

A vehicle was fully involved last night on 24th Avenue, cause still unknown

84-year-old Okanagan resident finishes 12,000-piece puzzle

Willie Tribiger started the puzzle in 2013, completing it in six and a half years

LETTER: Keep your pooch on a leash

Hey there “responsible dog owner.” I would just like to say thank… Continue reading

LETTER: the cheapest and easiest way to save lives

We are all anxiously awaiting the arrival of a Coronavirus vaccine. So… Continue reading

Fraser Valley woman complains of violent RCMP takedown during wellness check

Mounties respond that she was not co-operating during Mental Health Act apprehension

B.C. sees 12 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths

Three outbreaks exist in health-care settings

Lost dog swims Columbia River multiple times searching for home

The dog was missing from his Castlegar home for three days.

Booze on beach extended through summer in Penticton

Pilot project will stay in place until Oct. 15

COVID-19: B.C. promotes video-activated services card

Mobile app allows easier video identity verification

ICBC to resume road tests in July with priority for rebookings, health-care workers

Tests have been on hold for four months due to COVID-19

Most Read