Wed, Jan 16, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Finding Canada's Achilles' heel

By J. Michael Cole 寇謚將

Despite its size, Canada's political footprint on the international scene is rather light and, unlike the US, its military presence abroad does not threaten China in any imaginable way. Politically, Ottawa recognized Beijing even before Washington did and has unwaveringly entertained ties ever since. Its position on Taiwan, meanwhile, has been consistent and can hardly be characterized as favoring Taipei over Beijing. It doesn't even have constituents, as in the US Congress, who are "supporters" of Taiwan.

It seems, therefore, that the only point of contention between Ottawa and Beijing would be Canada's aforementioned extradition laws, which, as they are tougher than those of most other countries, could pose an embarrassing problem for Beijing if, through an ADS agreement, ordinary Chinese nationals now had a legitimate means (other than human smuggling) to reach Canada's shores, where they could claim refugee status.

Canada has hinted it would rather not have to take the ADS dispute to the WHO, and to avoid that happening Beijing will likely offer to make concessions in exchange for a few favors.

One such favor could very well be Lai's extradition.

Whether one regards him as China's "most-wanted fugitive," as the official Xinhua news agency has characterized him, or, to quote his defenders, the "leader of the free market," the former head of the Yuanhua Group in Xiamen cannot be used as a sacrificial lamb by Canada -- even if his extradition could result in the resumption of negotiations on an ADS agreement.

The temptation will be a strong one. But to yield on an issue of such fundamental importance as a commitment to prevent torture wherever it may occur over trade and tourism opportunities would be an unforgivable Faustian deal on Canada's part, one that would undermine the very moral fabric of the nation.

J. Michael Cole is a writer based in Taipei.

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