China’s rising economic power has left some Western countries to accommodate Beijing’s demand and bend to the Chinese government over human rights. Canada under the Liberal government seems to be one of them.
Canada and China have been strengthening their relationship since Justine Trudeau took office. In September, Trudeau made his first official visit to China, signing 1.2 billion commercial contracts and expressing intensions to engage in more dialogue with Beijing. Despite strong concerns over human rights abuse in China, Trudeau has looked into starting an extradition treaty talk with China – as demanded by the Chinese government. And recently, the Trudeau government considers voting to include China, the country with dismal human rights record on the United Nation Human Rights Council.
Trudeau’s courting China efforts have led some Canadian politicians to follow the suit. Recently, there was a pro-communist party event in Vancouver city hall that saw Vancouver’s acting mayor wearing a communist red scarf and a B.C. MP raising the communist red flag, both of which have highlighted the fact that Canadian politicians are under a growing influence of the Chinese government.
Indeed, PM Trudeau and his political followers have taken a coldly realistic approach to deal with China. Human rights concerns seemed superficial compared with the huge economic gains by forging strong ties with China. In recent years, amid distrusted stock markets and the volatile Chinese currency, a large amount of capital has left the country and poured into Canada – the safe haven for the global capital. The massive outflow of money has created a huge opportunity to improve the economic bottom line for Canada and to stabilize its economy.
Trudeau sees the opportunity of getting the prosperity out of a rising China, according to Charles Burton, a former Canadian diplomat in China based at Brock University. “From Mr. Trudeau’s point of view, what the real substance is ‘let’s get the free trade going and see our economic bottom line show signs of improvement’ – preferably before the next election.”
Canada is not the only Western country that has been bending to the pressure from China for their economic benefit. Britain’s ties to China have come into sharp focus recently as the country eagerly negotiate trade deals and ignores China’s human-rights issues. David Burrowes, an MP who helped write the commission’s report that described the human rights situation in China as the worst in decades, accused the government of kowtowing to the Chinese. He said that when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Britain last year, the government put pressure on MPs not to say much about human rights. “We ignored that pressure, but nevertheless it was a real pressure,” he said.
But the pro-China gestures by Western governments has sparked outcry from the Chinese community members who value Western democracy and frown upon Beijing’s practices of human rights abuse. They accuse the Liberal government of going too far in forging strong ties with China and has cast a blind eye towards the Chinese government’s dictatorship. “It is so painful to see the Vancouver city hall is sold out to China”, says a community member, referring to the pro-regime event held at Vancouver city hall.
Anastasia Lin, a beauty pageant contestant who has been an outspoken critic of China’s human rights record, has expressed her concerns over Trudeau’s extradition treaty talk with China, believing it would put outspoken Chinese Canadians at an even more vulnerable position. “It allows the Chinese government to continue abusing human rights,” she says.
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