The Canadian parliament on Monday passed a motion saying that China’s human rights abuses against the country’s Uighur Muslim population in Xinjiang constitute “genocide.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has so far avoided using the word genocide in regard to Xinjiang, but if he did, it would begin to generate solidarity among G7 nations on the issue — which is something Trudeau has called for.
Former US president Donald Trump used the word genocide regarding Xinjiang before leaving office last month, and members of US President Joe Biden’s administration have been pushing for him to make the same declaration, a Reuters report on Tuesday said.
After labeling its actions as genocide, the next question is what countries will do about China. A Politico report on Monday said that campaigners in the UK are pushing for British lawmakers to amend the kingdom’s Trade Bill so that it restricts trade with China and other countries guilty of such crimes.
Canada played a crucial role in establishing the International Criminal Court and “became the first country in the world to incorporate the obligations of the Rome Statute into its national laws when it adopted the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act on June 24, 2000,” its Web site says.
The act prohibits anyone suspected of involvement in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide of entering Canada. This would affect the operations of China’s representative offices in Canada.
Given the implications of recognizing China’s actions in Xinjiang as criminal, Ottawa should rethink its position on the “one China” policy.
Members of the Canadian parliament — including Judy Sgro, Michael Cooper, James Bezan, Peter Kent, Steven Blaney and Pierre Paul-Hus — have publicly expressed support for Taiwan.
In May last year, then-Canadian minister of foreign affairs Francois-Philippe Champagne expressed support for Taiwan, writing in an e-mail to The Canadian Press: “Canada continues to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international multilateral fora, where its presence provides important contributions to the public good.”
Canada is not bound by international law to adhere to the “one China” policy, but it does so to maintain its trade relationship with China.
However, that trade relationship has grown increasingly imbalanced over the past decade, with Canada now exporting about US$20 billion of goods to China per year and importing US$100 billion.
There is also the ever-present risk of China cutting off trade on a whim, as it did with canola exports following Canada’s arrest of Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟) in December 2018, after the US requested her extradition.
The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance wrote on its Web site: “China is ... an important market for Canadian pulses, pork, beef, wheat and barley” in addition to canola, but the organization acknowledged that trade with China faces serious issues, including “tariffs, which remain high on many agri-food products; tariff escalation; tariff rate quotas; [and] non-tariff barriers, including inconsistent application of regulations, slow customs administration, discriminatory application of China’s VAT [value-added tax] on imported goods and limitations on foreign direct investment.”
Canadian lawmakers and lobbyists should ask whether trade with China is worth the high price, especially the requirement that Canada overlook China’s human rights violations, as well as needlessly limiting its relationship with Taiwan.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration should call on Trudeau to disregard the “one China” policy and establish diplomatic ties with Taipei. Beijing is free to cut ties with Ottawa in response, but if others follow Canada’s lead, China would be forced to scale back its threats, or risk being isolated.
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