Wed, Jan 30, 2019 - Page 8 News List

An open letter to the Canadian PM

Dear Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

The undersigned, international scholars, religious leaders and former government officials wish to extend their solidarity with Canada on the unfair and unjust detention of three Canadian citizens by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and other pressures that are being put on Canada to comply with the PRC’s demands to turn the legal process in the deportation case of Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟) into a political exchange. We admire the way that your government has handled this issue non-politically, in keeping with international law and diplomatic norms.

The detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and the new death sentence handed down to Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, are in our view serious infringements on human rights and international law. The Beijing government is playing hostage diplomacy with Canada. We thus urge you to remain strong and uphold the rule of law in the face of the PRC’s intimidating tactics. We also call on our own governments to stand in solidarity with Canada at this time.

As international scholars who have for many decades observed the behavior of the PRC government toward the country of our academic specialization, Taiwan, we must say that China’s actions are regrettably a new norm. The government in Beijing is increasingly using threats and intimidation to get its way, and the international community has been too lax in looking the other way.

Taiwan and Canada are natural allies. The two countries share many of the same values, including democracy, respect for human rights, and a belief in the dignity of the individual. In spite of its momentous transition to democracy in the 1990s — or perhaps because it represented a democratic alternative — Taiwan has long been at the receiving end of pressures and bullying from the rulers in Beijing. Taiwan’s experience in dealing with these may be helpful for Canada at this point.

In fact, Taiwan has had to deal with a very similar situation: In March 2017, a Taiwanese citizen, Mr Lee Ming-che (李明哲), disappeared when he traveled to China. Mr Lee, a longtime and respected human rights worker and democracy advocate, has been in Chinese detention for almost two years now. He was held incommunicado for many months, eventually put on a show trial in September 2017 and sentenced to five years in prison for “subverting state power.”

China also uses economic pressure on Taiwan, including using Taiwanese businesspeople working in China to pressure the government. We note that the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland’s statement on Dec. 7 last year “expressed Canada’s strong disappointment that China is involving private industry and obliging them to take a position on political issues.” Canada and Taiwan are in the same boat, and should cooperate and coordinate much more than they have done before.

We thus recommend that you use this occasion as an opportunity to review and enhance Canada’s relations with a free and democratic Taiwan, strengthening exchanges based on shared values and principles of human rights and democracy.

Canada

1. Clive Ansley, international lawyer, Courtenay, British Columbia.

2. J. Michael Cole, senior fellow, University of Nottingham, former analyst at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Ottawa.

3. Ed File, emeritus professor of social science, York University, Toronto, Ontario.

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