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Justin Trudeau urges China to de-escalate tensions in Hong Kong

Justin Trudeau urges China to de-escalate tensions in Hong Kong
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OTTAWA – As China outlawed Hong Kong commemorations of the Tiananmen Square massacre for the first time in 30 years, the Canadian government sent a faint signal of support to pro-democracy activists and Canadian citizens living there.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stopped short of committing to accept asylum-seekers, but underlined that Canada welcomes people from around the globe who flee “persecution and violence.”

“We have a strong immigration system that looks at individual cases looks at systemic challenges in response to them, and I know our system is doing just that.”

Trudeau urged Beijing to de-escalate tensions and to “engage constructively” in dialogue with the people of Hong Kong, saying his government is “very concerned about the situation” because there are 300,000 Canadian citizens in Hong Kong “and millions of others who are fighting for justice and peace.”

China has rejected growing international criticism of its actions, led by the United States. “Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference,” Zhao Lijian, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Tuesday.

The Communist Party-led government cited health concerns due to the coronavirus for its ban on Hong Kong gatherings to mark the anniversary of tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 to quash pro-democracy protests there.

The ban comes days after President Xi Jinping extended China’s national security laws over Hong Kong territory. Critics including the United States say Beijing has undermined the “one country, two systems” pact signed when Britain handed the city over to China.

President Donald Trump has threatened to retract special commercial status for Chinese exports from Hong Kong, while Canada has been much more muted in its response, joining allies in a statement of protest last week.

Yet Canada’s relations with China seemed certain Tuesday to chill further after a second Canadian telecoms giant, BCE, opted — in the absence of a regulatory decision from Ottawa — to work with Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson and not its Chinese competitor Huawei to build Bell Canada’s 5G wireless network.

Bell’s competitor Rogers has also chosen to work with Ericsson, while Telus has said it would use Huawei.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer taunted the prime minister for delaying cabinet’s decision on Huawei in Canadian 5G networks, saying Trudeau has forced businesses to make the tough decisions for him. He asked Trudeau why he lacked the “backbone” to ban Huawei.

Trudeau said his government will make its decision with a view to keeping Canadians’ data secure and to ensure Canadian businesses remain “competitive.”

Canada’s security allies have limited Huawei’s role in their next-generation wireless networks, including the U.K. which just recently reversed course and said it would completely eliminate Huawei by 2023. The U.S. is pressuring Canada to ban Huawei as well.

Growing global tensions with China were a key focus during a call Monday among foreign affairs ministers of Canada’s key security allies, the so-called “Five Eyes” network.

The office of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Tuesday that he discussed with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom the need to co-ordinate a response to “urgent global challenges, including (China’s) unilateral and arbitrary decision to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong.”

Though there was little detail from Canada about the discussions, British foreign secretary Dominic Raab told the U.K. parliament the allies had discussed sharing the burden of any exodus of Hong Kong citizens fleeing China’s tightening grip.

The Liberals have been under fire in the Commons this week for what the Conservatives say is a failure to stand up to China.

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Conservative MP Michael Chong said the Liberal government “is not only failing to defend democracy here but also abroad. It can t utter the word ‘Taiwan.’ It is failing to be strong and clear on Hong Kong.

“When will this government act? When will it threaten economic sanctions, like the U.S. administration has? When will it provide asylum and a clear path to citizenship like the U.K. government has?” Chong asked.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne defended Canada’s approach, saying the government is “setting up with its allies around the world to protect the freedom and democracy that has been enjoyed by the people in Hong Kong.”
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